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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Baumgartner bill would crack down on slowpokes in the fast lane

By Chad Sokol Murrow News Service
OLYMPIA – Sen. Michael Baumgartner wants police to crack down on “aggravated left-lane driving” – that is, moving too slowly in the fast lane. Baumgartner, R-Spokane, introduced a bill last week that would slap additional fines on drivers who “poke along” in designated fast lanes, blocking traffic and potentially causing accidents. The slower they drive, the higher the fine. Those drivers are not only a nuisance but also a safety hazard, forcing other drivers to slam on their brakes or weave around them, Baumgartner said in a news release. “You can recognize them by the long line of frustrated drivers you’ll find right behind them,” he said. “There ought to be a penalty for that sort of obliviousness.” Motorists already can get a $124 ticket for driving continuously in the left lane of a highway when it impedes the flow of traffic. Left lanes are supposed to be used for passing, moving aside for merging traffic, or preparing to make a left turn. Baumgartner’s bill would add $27 for driving 1-5 mph under the speed limit, up to $67 for driving 16-20 mph under the limit. The bill got a hearing Thursday in the Senate Transportation Committee but hasn’t been sent to a budget committee for further consideration. Although the deadline for new bills has passed, this one involves fines so can be labeled “necessary to implement the budget,” making it eligible for consideration. Baumgartner has made it clear he’d like to shorten his commute from Spokane to Olympia. Earlier in the session he sponsored a bill to raise the speed limit on Interstate 90 to 75 mph. A similar bill, from Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, could be signed into law this week.
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