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Bill aimed at driving in the left lane gets second chance

Delegates circled back for a second chance at a bill discouraging drivers from camping out in the left lane.

The House of Delegates narrowly voted down a bill two weeks ago that would have made left-lane driving — with several exceptions — a primary offense. Tuesday, delegates voted in favor of a bill that would establish a secondary offense.

“This is now a secondary offense,” said Delegate Steve Westfall, R-Jackson, who has sponsored similar bills year after year. “There was some objection that it be a primary offense.”

Delegates on Feb. 15 voted down a similar Senate bill, 46-48.

Today, they passed House Bill 5237 on a 68-31 vote.

The bill includes several exceptions — like when the vehicle in the left lane is passing another car, when the right-hand lane is blocked or when the vehicle is taking a left-turn exit.

“This will allow the Department of Highways to put up signs to encourage people to drive in the right lane unless they’re passing or there’s a reason to be in the left lane,” Westfall said.

Delegate Larry Kump, R-Berkeley, said he voted against the bill before and would do so again. “Now we’ve got the same bill before us, except it’s a secondary offense rather than a primary offense,” he said. “I’m still voting no.”

Delegate Margitta Mazzocchi, R-Logan, described a cultural inclination toward wanting to use the left lane for passing other vehicles at a rapid clip.

“You know that I come from Germany, and we drive fast over there,” Mazzochi said. “The worst thing that happens to me is when I have someone in the left lane and I have to watch out because I want to pass them on the right — but he might come over and hit me. So I want you to pass this.”