Traffic fatalities up over last year

Traffic moves freely Tuesday along Interstate 65 in Limestone County.

If you're a driver who prefers cruising along at the speed limit in the left lane of the interstate, you've only got 14 days left to kick the habit.

On Sept. 1, the state's new anti-road rage law goes into effect. The law, which was approved by the Alabama Legislature during the 2019 session, requires drivers to use the left lane for passing only.

Those who stay in the left lane for a mile and a half without passing other vehicles risk being cited. For the first 60 days, however, law enforcement will only issue citations.

The original bill, House Bill 221, was sponsored by State Rep. Phil Pettus of Lauderdale County. It passed the House by a 61-24 vote and the Senate by a 31-1 vote.

Alabama is now one of 38 states that has a bill targeting left-lane drivers. In five of those states, fines can reach $1,000.

“If drivers follow the law and keep the left lane open for passing, we expect traffic flow to improve on interstates around Alabama,” said Seth Burkett, spokesman with the Alabama Department of Transportation. “Keeping the left lane open also allows first responders to reach emergencies faster and safely.”

The Alabama Department of Transportation has been warning drivers about the change on digital message boards on interstates, but Burkett said the message has been limited to larger cities like Birmingham. Plans to bring messaging systems to North Alabama interstates are in the works, however.

According to a study by AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety, driving slowly in the left lane is one of the top causes for road range incidents. The report said while left-lane cruisers may be “in the right” by driving the speed limit, they risk putting themselves in danger by making drivers behind them angry.

The report said other behaviors that could lead to a road-rage incident include cutting off another driver, tailgating and obscene/inappropriate gestures and honking.

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