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Proposed Idaho law targets slowpokes in the fast lane

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 12, 2018, 8:33 p.m.

Idaho would crack down on slowpokes in freeway fast lanes, under legislation that cleared a divided House Transportation Committee on Monday.

Rep. Lance Clow’s legislation would specifically make it illegal for anyone driving in the left lane of a controlled-access freeway to impede other traffic that’s traveling at the speed limit, making it that much more likely that such a driver would get a ticket.

Idaho law already makes it illegal to “impede the normal reasonable movement of traffic.”

Under questioning from committee members, Clow, R-Twin Falls, said, “I think a lot of this is somewhat subjective. It’s kind of like the rules of the road kind of thing, and courtesy, and reminding people that they need to be aware.” He said, “I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of tickets issued as a result of this, but it will remind people what is appropriate behavior in their passing.”

Asked by Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, how it would affect trucks, which have a 70 mph speed limit on Idaho freeways where cars have an 80 mph limit, Clow said, “We have that challenge of the dual speed limits. If the truck moves into that left lane, we’re hoping they’re going to be more sensitive about how they do that. Most of the challenges I’ve seen when that happens is when they’re getting near a hill. I’m thinking: Decide sooner.”

Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, noted that she’s been traveling Idaho’s highways in an RV this year, as she campaigns for lieutenant governor, and she’s encountered plenty of times when she was going as fast as she could, but as she started up a hill, it took a while to pass and get back over. “I think that’s going to happen for people that have recreational vehicles,” she said. “I’m sorry – they just don’t go as fast as cars.” She asked if she’d be socked with a $90 ticket in those situations.

Clow responded, “It will be a judgment call, if you’re impeding traffic. … Hopefully it’s a message to vehicles to make sure they’re aware of what’s around them, and I’m sure you’d do the best you can.”

Packer, Wintrow, and Reps. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, and John Gannon, D-Boise, voted against the bill, but they were outvoted; it’ll now head to the full House for debate. North Idaho Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, voted with the majority to approve the bill.