Florida bill will make it easier for law enforcement to penalize slow left-lane drivers

It's happened time and time again. A driver cruises in the left lane on a Florida highway with a long line of motorists tailgating behind them and eager to pick up speed. But yet, that leading vehicle refuses to move over.

It's frustrating and can lead to unsafe situations.

"A lot of people want to get in that lane and drive the speed limit, but that's not what that lane is for.  And it drives people absolutely crazy when they get in that lane and people are driving the speed limit," Tampa police told FOX 13 in a 2016 interview. "That lane is used for passing."

According to Florida Statute 316.081, a driver must move over if they reasonably know they are being overtaken by a faster motorist. This goes for any roadway. TPD Officer Roy Paz said the only exemptions are if a driver is making a left-hand turn or if they're passing another vehicle.

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But a new bill filed this legislative session would alter the law, applying it to any road, street, or highway with two more lanes heading in the same direction with a posted speed limit of at least 65 miles per hour.

"A driver may not continuously operate a motor vehicle in the furthermost left-hand lane, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle, when preparing to exit the road, street, or highway, or when otherwise directed by an official traffic control device," the bill said in part, which passed unanimously Wednesday during its first committee. 

Read the full bill

It does not apply to authorized emergency vehicles, maintenance and construction crews, carpool lanes, or left-side exit lanes.

Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, R-Fort Myers, filed House Bill 421, saying it would make it easier for police to enforce and clearer to drivers that the left lane is for passing only. An identical bill was filed in the Florida Senate.

Drivers in violation will receive a non-criminal traffic infraction with a fine of up to $158.

If signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the bill will go into effect in January 2024.

Until then, current Florida law does state that even if you’re driving the speed limit on the furthermost left lane, and another vehicle – traveling faster than you – approaches from behind, you must move out of the left lane.

"Now, a lot of people have a hard time with that. They say, ‘Well, you know what? If I’m driving the speed limit…I shouldn’t have to move anywhere,'" Officer Paz said. "Well, that’s not what the law says.  The law says regardless of their speed if another car comes up, you’re supposed to move over and let that person pass."

"It’s not only the courteous thing to do, but it’s the law," Paz added.