Florida Fines Slow Drivers: Blueprint For Australia? Photo:
Trevor Collett | Jul, 02 2013 | 6 Comments

It's nearly every motorist's bugbear: the slow driver who sticks doggedly to the right hand lane, ignoring a sea of frustrated drivers trying to find a way past.

And it's not just 'Sunday drivers', the terminally irritating and the sanctimonious; some truck drivers will also put a torniquet on a right lane when it suits them, grinding slowly uphill, then bolting down the other side.

It is, of course, a traffic offence in every Australian state or territory, to 'fail to keep left' on roads with speed limits of 80km/h or higher.

Do it, and you risk being fined as well as losing demerit points.

In New South Wales, the penalty for failing to keep left is $298 and two demerit points. In Victoria, the penalty is $282 and also two demerit points.

But should we go further? Should it be an offence for drivers to travel markedly below the speed limit in any lane on a highway?

Currently it is not an offence in Australia. Not even on roads such as freeways or major carriageways with a posted limit above 90km/h.

But should it be? Some states in the US think so.

Like Australia, several jurisdictions there have “left-lane loser” laws in place (our right lane is their left lane), giving police the power to issue penalty notices to drivers travelling markedly below speed limits in outside lanes.

In the balmy US state of Florida, new laws there not only target drivers who hog 'passing lanes', but also those who dawdle dangerously in other lanes.

It has created two minimum speed limits; in a 70mph (113kph) zone, drivers must maintain a speed of 60mph (100kph) or higher when in the passing lane, or 50mph (80kph) or higher in lower-speed zones. Offenders risk a fine of US$60 and three demerit points.

It is self-evident (and a scary moment many of us have experienced) that slow moving drivers not only pose a risk to themselves but also to drivers closing quickly from behind. The significant difference in speed increasing the risk of being rear-ended.

In Florida, while drivers are getting used to the new laws, police can choose to issue cautions instead of penalty notices for the first 3-6 months.

Isn't it time Australian states followed suit? We think so.

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