‘Slowpoke driver' fines advance in Minnesota Senate committee

Slow-moving drivers would face a ticket for driving in the fast lane under a bill advancing in the Minnesota Senate.

The bill, authored by state Sen. John Jasinski, allows a judge to fine people up to $175 for failing to move over when a faster-moving car comes up behind them. It passed the Senate Transportation committee Tuesday on a voice vote with bipartisan support.

“Several states have this. I believe it’s a great way to improve the traffic flow throughout our state,” said Jasinski, R-Faribault.

Critics said such a law would be impossible to enforce and would encourage road rage and tailgating. The Minnesota State Patrol raised concerns about several aspects of the bill Tuesday.

State Sen. Matt Little, DFL-Lakeville, said a judge would toss out many cases because the law would rely on a state trooper’s judgment call about whether a left-lane driver was slowing traffic.

“On behalf of the grandmas and grandpas of Minnesota, I oppose this bill,” Little said. “It’s unnecessary and unenforceable.”

The bill allows drivers to pass by moving into the left lane of any road that has multiple lanes of traffic in either direction. Drivers would be able to go 5 miles per hour over the posted speed limit to pass. But if another car approaches from behind at a faster speed, the driver of the first car would have to move to the right.

State Patrol Lt. Col. Rochelle Schrofer said agency officials were concerned about increasing the speed limit.

“We feel that would make two speeds on a single roadway -- a speed limit for the left lane, and a different speed limit for the other lanes,” Schrofer said. “The state patrol doesn’t believe there’s really a need to increase the speed in that left lane to pass around a vehicle.”

Such a law could also embolden drivers to tailgate to force the driver in front to move over, she said.

Despite those concerns, the bill passed out of the committee with bipartisan support. It next heads to the Senate Judiciary committee before it could get to the Senate floor.

Jasinski said a judge would have discretion to lower the amount of the traffic ticket. His bill calls for a public awareness campaign, and he said the state could use billboards or other signage to educate people about the proper use of the left lane.

“I don’t see a ton of tickets being done. I think it’s the public awareness that tells people they should be in the right lane if they’re moving slower – that’s my intent of this,” Jasinski said.