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Keeping slow drivers out of left lane is tough, Arkansas police say

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(The Center Square) – Arkansas Highway Police has written over 300 tickets and warnings to drivers impeding traffic in the left-hand lane over the last year, but the law is difficult to enforce, lawmakers heard Wednesday.

The state legislature attempted to respond to the issue of drivers “camping out” in the left lanes of highways by passing a law that went into effect in 2021 stating people can only drive in the left lane of a multilane highway when they are overtaking and passing another vehicle.

The law also made provisions for driving in the left lane if all other lanes are closed to traffic, in disrepair, or if the vehicle is preparing to exit the highway on the left.

The law, known as Act 1090, clarified language that previously stated vehicles couldn’t stay in the left lane if they were impeding traffic.

However, since then, law enforcement officers still find it difficult to enforce it, Chief of Arkansas Highway Police Jeff Holmes told lawmakers.

“The problem that we face is they typically don’t camp in the left lane or impede traffic in the left lane when police cars are around,” Holmes said. “Over the past year we’ve done, probably, as Highway Police, 28 or more special enforcements focusing on left-hand lane drivers because it is a serious problem that I get numerous complaints about.”

Holmes says they’ve put officers in low-profile vehicles like Department of Transportation trucks to catch drivers in the act.

When asked how the danger of someone impeding traffic in the left lane compares to speeding, Holmes called it a “comparative danger.”

“Because traffic does typically slow way down or can even come to a stop on the interstate system. That’s why we do focus on it. Like I said, it’s just a challenge we face with marked police vehicles, they typically don’t stay in the left lane,” Holmes said.

Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Little Rock, who chairs the committee, asked whether putting out public service announcements could help curb the issue.

“I really do think we need some PSA’s. I think that these people that think it’s more dangerous to drive 76 than it is to be in the left lane impeding traffic, if we could help educate them to the fact that that’s not necessarily true, then maybe our population would be a little safer,” Johnson said.

The committee also approved Wednesday an interim study proposal for an act requiring drivers to yield the right-of-way to public transit buses.

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