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Rhode Island House Passes 'Lollygagging' Ban Bill

Rhode Island may penalize "lollygagging" drivers who hang out at low speeds in the left lane of highways.

The Rhode Island House of Representatives, in a 60 to 8 vote, passed a bill on May 25 that would ban drivers from staying in the left lane unless they are passing another vehicle, WCVB reports.

Those who support the legislation say that lollygagging drivers, or those who drive slowly in the passing lane, are causing dangerous traffic conditions because other drivers become angry and try to weave around them.

“Prohibiting someone from passing causes an unsafe situation for other drivers. It forces that driver into another lane and causes aggression," state Representative Dennis Canario, the bill's sponsor, said, according to WPRI.

Citing a study performed by the American Automobile Association, Canario noted that aggressive driving was a factor in up to 56 percent of fatal accidents.

“When you get that vehicle going slow and there’s nobody ahead of them --  there is no reason for them to be there,” Canario, a former town police officer, told the The Providence Journal, adding that the aggressive behavior it provokes out of frustration from other drivers goes beyond shouting and cursing.

Russ Rader, senior vice president of communications for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said that there have been no major studies that show driving more slowly than others in the left lane leads to crashes or any other problems. Rader noted, though, that increased speed limits have been proven to lead to more crashes and fatalities. 

Legislators who voted against the bill say that the law will be too hard to enforce and that it will be too difficult to educate out-of-state drivers on the rules associated with it, according to WCVB.

The new law would affect Interstate 95 and other major multi-lane highways in the state. The proposed penalty is a $85 fine.

“This bill is well needed,” Canario said. “I want to make our roads safer.”

According to WPRI, lawmakers have not consulted with law enforcement regarding the bill, nor have they created a plan on how to educate drivers on how it works should it pass.

The legislation will now move to the Senate for a vote.

There are several states that have similar laws regarding speed in the left lane, including Massachusetts, New York and Maine. In those states, though, it only applies on roads with on- and off-ramps that do not have traffic lights, such as Interstates 95, 195 and 295.

Sources: WCVB, WPRI, The Providence Journal / Photo credit: Ben Babcock/Flickr

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