"On behalf of road rage, I move the bill," said Assemblyman Gilbert "Whip" Wilson (D-Camden), a co-sponsor of the measure.
Assuming the legislation is signed by the governor, offending drivers who are caught clogging left lanes reserved for passing will see fines increase from the current $50-200, to $100-300. The new legislation also calls for $50 from each violation going to a fund for creating signs reminding drivers of the left-lane law.
The bill was originally put forth by New Jersey Senator Donald Norcross who often experienced the frustration of left-lane hogs while driving along the Atlantic City Expressway, according to nj.com.
"Some [drivers] won't get out of the left-hand lane until the lights of the state trooper cars are flashing - they are completely oblivious," he said.
Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon echoed the frustration and noted the bill's aim at improving highway safety, stating that clogging up the left lane is the second-most dangerous driving activity -- behind drunk driving -- because it leads to severe cases of road rage.
"One driver cruising along in the left lane can cause dozens of other drivers to become frustrated, leading to more incidents of aggressive driving and additional, unnecessary lane changes - which, in turn, lead to more accidents," he said, according to nj.com.
O'Scanlon also said that he hopes the bill will not be a revenue generator, but an opportunity to educate drivers about the dangers of not practicing lane discipline.
Keeping right around the country
New Jersey has been one of the stricter states when it comes to enforcing left lane laws, even prior to this new legislation. According to nj.com, there were 4,233 tickets written for drivers who weren't using the left lane to either pass another vehicle or to prepare to execute a left turn.
Several other states also have keep-right laws on their books. Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts and Oklahoma all have passed legislation that penalizes drivers in some way for driving in the left lane when not passing or turning, according to a document compiled by MIT.
But, when it comes to the rest of the states, laws regarding left-lane driving get muddy. For instance, several states require drivers to move over from the left lane only if they are blocking traffic. Many other states follow the Uniform Vehicle Code and require cars that are traveling slower than the flow of traffic to move over to the right, regardless of the speed limit. Others permit vehicles driving the speed limit to drive in the left lane and the rest have no laws on their books at all.
Some states further complicate their laws by enforcing them only at certain speeds or on specific types of roads. Michigan law, for example, allows left-lane driving in the instance of "heavy traffic" or on freeways with three or more lanes.
Although it's a couple years old, Jalopnik has a great map that illustrates the different laws in each state in the US.
Safety and traffic flow
We can all likely agree that left-lane laws seem like a good idea, since we've all surely muttered a drunken sailor's worth of expletives due to slow drivers in the fast lane. But hard numbers that back up the assertion that left-lane laws improve safety are hard to come by.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Governors Highway Safety Administration, the two big national highway transportation organizations, have any quantifiable data on the impact left-lane laws have had on safety in the states where they are enforced. Nor have they found any impact on traffic flow.