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Georgia police ease way into 'slowpoke' law

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 11:38 PM
Last updated Wednesday, July 30, 2014 2:39 AM
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Trooper 1st Class Chris Niehus found five “slowpoke” motorists on Augusta-area roads Tuesday. But like so many others who have been stopped by officers enforcing Georgia’s revamped slowpoke law, all five drivers left with just a warning.

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Georgia State Patrol Trooper 1st Class Chris Niehus uses a laser site to check the speed of oncoming traffic. The "slow poke" law went into effect in Georgia the first of July.   JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
Georgia State Patrol Trooper 1st Class Chris Niehus uses a laser site to check the speed of oncoming traffic. The "slow poke" law went into effect in Georgia the first of July.


The Georgia State Patrol trooper said now is not the time to start issuing citations. In fact, since the law took effect July 1, he said, he hasn’t issued a single ticket.

Now’s the time to educate.

“What I’ve found is three out of the five I’ve stopped had no idea about the law,” said Niehus, who belongs to the agency’s Grovetown post. “Two had heard about (it) but didn’t know that it had come into effect already.”

Those numbers, he said, tell him more people need to know the intricacies of the law before officers ramp up enforcement.

Signed into action by Gov. Nathan Deal on April 15, Georgia House Bill 459 was crafted to create more clarity in the language in the state code regarding impeding traffic flow. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon, the former head of the Georgia State Patrol.

The amended law states that no vehicle should occupy a passing lane, meaning the most left-hand lane, when its driver “knows or should reasonably know that he or she is being overtaken in such lane from the rear by a motor vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed.”

Violators could face as much as a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. The actual amount of the fine is set by the State Court judge, said Kristy Key, the accounting supervisor at the Richmond County Clerk of Court’s office. Key was unable to confirm Tuesday whether a fine has been set for Richmond County.

The law includes some provisions, though. Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Ramone Lamkin said it does not apply to situations in which traffic conditions or congestion prevent a motorist from moving into the right-hand lane, or when weather and other road hazards force motorists to use the passing lane.

Like state troopers, Richmond County sheriff’s deputies also have eased their way into enforcing the law.

“It’s not fair to the public because they don’t keep up with the laws like we do,” Lamkin said. “They don’t know that it went into effect July 1; they don’t know when the House bill was passed or when the bill was put into session. It’s not fair to them to start enforcing a law they don’t know a thing about.”

Lamkin said the law is something that will greatly affect the Augusta area, which is crisscrossed with major thoroughfares. In the past, Interstate 20 and Bobby Jones Expressway have been bogged down with slow drivers.

Law enforcement agencies hope the law will also increase driver safety.

“What we’ve seen are a lot of aggressive-driving cases,” Niehus said. “There are people who tend to do the posted speed limit or below, and the driver behind them is in a hurry and starts flashing lights and honking the horn … That could cause a traffic crash.”

Consistently enforcing the law is one area that officers shouldn’t struggle with, Lamkin said, because it is used at the officer’s discretion.

“Common sense will go a long way,” he said.

Though Niehus said he can already see a shift in driver behavior, Lamkin said it might take more time before motorists are truly mindful of the new law.

“It may be six months to a year, I think, before we start seeing a difference with people knowing about the law,” he said.

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grinder48
2057
Points
grinder48 07/30/14 - 03:36 am
0
0
Move Over!
Unpublished

How tough can it be ... if you're not passing, stay right!

Just My Opinion
6270
Points
Just My Opinion 07/30/14 - 03:45 am
6
6
no vehicle should occupy a

no vehicle should occupy a passing lane, meaning the most left-hand lane, when its driver “knows or should reasonably know that he or she is being overtaken in such lane from the rear by a motor vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed.”

So, we can still drive in the left lane as long as there's not somebody coming up faster behind us. In that case, we need to yield to them by moving over to the right lane. Does that sound correct?

nocnoc
49218
Points
nocnoc 07/30/14 - 05:09 am
9
3
A long needed law

We all have seen it too many times.

We get lane stuck behind someone doing 55 in the left lane that is posted 70.

It is like a person could care less about a long string on vehicles behind them and they own the fast lane.

TYPE A Motorist.

hoptoad
21512
Points
hoptoad 07/30/14 - 05:58 am
9
3
It's about time Georgia

It's about time Georgia caught up with many of the other states that ticket drivers who impede the flow of traffic by hanging out in the passing (left) lane. Nothing wrong with being in the left lane as long as you move over to let other people who are traveling at a faster rate of speed go past you.

Even if you are driving a few miles over the speed limit, let the others pass - it's not up to you to monitor anyone else's speed. Law enforcement will catch up with those drivers sooner or later.

When I've traveled on I-20, I frequently came upon a driver in the left lane driving UNDER the speed limit and refusing to move over to the right lane. When I finally had an opportunity to pass on the right (which is supposed to be illegal, at least in some states) I noticed the slow, left lane hogs were trying to text or busy yakking on the phone. Both men and women are guilty of this.

Adam Bomb
359
Points
Adam Bomb 07/30/14 - 06:03 am
6
2
Ignorance of the law is no

Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Common sense should tell people to get of the way. Just yesterday I was forced to follow a slowpoke on Highway 1 from Gate five to the light by Walmart. The driver ignored a polite beep plus flashing headlights. Didn't see me or the other cars hemmed in? Maybe you should be forced to have an eye test.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11099
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 07/30/14 - 06:32 am
10
2
Common Sense

I travel quite a bit and I've noticed certain classifications of people who tend to stay in the left lane intentionally matching the speed of vehicles in the right lane. This is done intentionally. No they are not all the same race but are usually in the same age group. I've also noticed that they do this on two lane roads too. They drive slow when there is no opportunity to pass but when an opportunity to pass then comes up they with increase speed by as much as 30 mph to keep you behind them. These are intentional acts and should be dealt with. Cell phone use and texting should carry heavy fines if it impact traffic in any way... I think texting and driving should carry the same penalties as Reckless Driving.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11099
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 07/30/14 - 06:33 am
2
1
JMO

If you read the law it's keep right except to pass on 4 lane roadways... Some people get zoned out after a while and forget where they are!!

nanowerx
1405
Points
nanowerx 07/30/14 - 07:22 am
7
1
finally!

I am not one to support new laws, but this one has been much needed. I drive on i-20 for work constantly and it blows me away how many people ride in the left lane going 60mph with a line of cars behind them. I don't know if these folks are oblivious or just crappy people, but it has to stop. Why on Earth somebody would want to cruise under the speed limit in the fast lane is beyond me. I mean, right lane traffic is going faster than these people most times, which makes it even more dangerous as people start passing them on the right.

Finally, GA enacting a law that I can fully get behind. Bravo!

BamaMan
2687
Points
BamaMan 07/30/14 - 07:34 am
4
1
okay....

I'm not a lead foot, but I don't let grass grow under me either, so now enforce it!!!

hoptoad
21512
Points
hoptoad 07/30/14 - 07:48 am
3
2
JMO, it's not just the far

JMO, it's not just the far left lane. If there's a lane to your right no matter how many lanes there are, you are in a passing lane. If possible you must yield to anyone behind you if you able to move to your right.

Coldbeer's right about staying in the right lane except to pass. Sometimes it's hard to do that if the right lane is bogged down which happens with the big rigs and slow pokes who have moved over.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11099
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 07/30/14 - 07:55 am
4
0
Bogged Down

hop, that lane can get bogged down some, but not for more than 5 miles!!!!

whyme
2109
Points
whyme 07/30/14 - 07:58 am
3
11
clarification

So let me see if I understand this. If I choose to drive the speed limit, whether it's 55 or 70, and I'm in the left hand lane, I'm breaking the law because I'm not allowing someone who wants to go above and beyond the speed limit-which I always thought was grounds for a ticket. I can see myself in a bind: I'm on Bobby Jones and the traffic in the right hand lane is crawling along so I don't want to be stuck in there or may not be able to get in there, but if I get in the left hand lane going around 60 (my actual usual speed) and some joker wants to go 65 or more, I'm in the wrong. No happy medium here. And on I20 I pretty much stick to my 70 in the left hand lane mostly because the right hand lane for some reason is rougher and harder to navigate in inclement conditions, not sure why. But again, I'll be expected to either speed up to even faster speeds or risk a ticket.

itsanotherday1
48342
Points
itsanotherday1 07/30/14 - 07:58 am
9
1
"I think texting and driving

"I think texting and driving should carry the same penalties as Reckless Driving."

It should carry the same penalty as DUI (.08), since studies I've read say that the danger to the public is the same.

itsanotherday1
48342
Points
itsanotherday1 07/30/14 - 08:02 am
5
2
No Whyme, your scenario is

No Whyme, your scenario is not what the law was intended for, nor will be cited for. As long as the left lane traffic is going faster than the right lane traffic, you can't be obstructing traffic flow. Unless of course "faster" is 1/4 mph and traffic is stacked up behind you.

itsanotherday1
48342
Points
itsanotherday1 07/30/14 - 08:05 am
4
2
For driver awareness,

For driver awareness, especially non Georgians, they should attach another sign to the posts carrying "Slower Traffic Keep Right".

IT'S THE LAW!

oldredneckman96
5115
Points
oldredneckman96 07/30/14 - 08:14 am
1
0
Slow pokes
Unpublished

OK, now have a law that requires bicycles to get off the road when drivers doing the posted speed limit approach. These dummies kill themselves and cost too many tax dollars to scrape off the road and have no insurance to pay for the damage to your car. If they want to be a "vehicle" act like one.

Little Lamb
49118
Points
Little Lamb 07/30/14 - 08:35 am
6
0
Interstates

It's a no brainer that this law applies to interstate highways. But does it also apply to non-interstate roads with four lanes or more? Take a look at Adam Bomb's example above: if someone pulls up behind you on Deans Bridge Rd. do you have to move over? How about Gordon Highway? How about Washington Road? How about Peach Orchard Road? How about Belair Road? For that matter, how about Broad Street downtown?

itsanotherday1
48342
Points
itsanotherday1 07/30/14 - 09:19 am
3
2
LL, IMO the only practical

LL, IMO the only practical application of the law would be for limited access highways since people making left turns necessarily need to be in the left lane well ahead of their turn.

Personally, I think people are fretting too much over this. The author of the law himself said that it was more about education and awareness for safer driving than anything else. I will go out on a limb and predict enforcement through fines will be close to nonexistent. After all, if you think about it, the left lane hoggers are a small fraction of the drivers on the road, albeit the most noticeable.

Young Fred
21143
Points
Young Fred 07/30/14 - 09:14 am
4
2
It's simple

It's fairly simple, and doesn't matter the road or the speed you're traveling. If you're not in the right lane and another vehicle overtakes you, you should move to the right lane if it's safe to do so, unless you're about to make a left turn.

If it wasn't a law, it's still common courtesy!!!

From the article, the “Two had heard about (it) but didn’t know that it had come into effect already" should have been ticketed!

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11099
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 07/30/14 - 10:17 am
4
1
If it wasn't a law, it's still common courtesy!!!

That about sums it up. If you can't practice common courtesy, then maybe your mother should have used that switch more!!

corgimom
38490
Points
corgimom 07/30/14 - 10:21 am
4
4
I just see it as another

I just see it as another legal way for the police to do a "routine traffic stop".

GiantsAllDay
10513
Points
GiantsAllDay 07/30/14 - 10:37 am
6
3
Corgimom, you are correct.

Corgimom, you are correct. The legislature gave the cops a tool to use in the daytime. At night, they can use the "tag light burned out" routine and now in the daytime they can use this one.

thauch12
7076
Points
thauch12 07/30/14 - 10:46 am
3
4
Everyone wins!

Absolutely, corgi. But it's an overall very interesting law. The general populace is happy because it gets the slowpokes out of the left lane. And the cops are absolutely giddy in that they now can pull people over for BOTH going too fast OR too slow and generate revenue/pay for their retirements!

jesslgrdn
218
Points
jesslgrdn 07/30/14 - 11:05 am
5
0
IT'S BEEN LONG OVERDUE

Actually, for a long time the Georgia drivers manual has had instruction that a driver is to move over for faster paced traffic. It's not just a common courtesy, it's the law. I'M SO GLAD they are doing this. Wrightsboro and Washington Rd will DEFINITELY BENEFIT if cops start enforcing this! I agree with ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts, I have seen too many people who hang out in the left lane and match the speed of right hand lane cars, which along with slowing traffic also incites road rage. The other category of slowpokes tend to go slower than the speed limit and 95% of the time these are the older folks. Let's face facts, if you are afraid to drive the speed limit you should probably keep off the roads - but that is just my opinion.

OJP
7738
Points
OJP 07/30/14 - 11:10 am
5
0
At least the issue is settled.

The whole discussion of whether or not someone should get over can now be immediately resolved with, "It's illegal not to."

jimmymac
47688
Points
jimmymac 07/30/14 - 11:33 am
1
0
LAW
Unpublished

Great law but it's a shame it had to be legislated. I agree with another poster that some people seem to get a kick out of being jerks. I was driving on SC278 yesterday coming back from MCG in Augusta. A jerk did a rolling stop through an intersection to get in front of me. There wasn't a car in sight behind me I'll mention. The guy proceeded to drive 35mph on the 55mph road. When passing became legal I attempted to pass the jerk and he sped up to nearly 65mph. I pulled back behind him because a car was approaching. He then proceeded to slow back to 35. If you've driven 278 you know that it only has a few places where passing is prudent. Eventually he started to turn and I was able to get his attention so I could give him the one finger salute he so richly deserved. If there ever was a legal case for road rage this was it.

GiantsAllDay
10513
Points
GiantsAllDay 07/30/14 - 11:40 am
2
3
I don't think the legislature

I don't think the legislature thinks very hard when they pass a new law. And I don't think the attorneys that work for the legislature are very good either.....
“knows or should reasonably know that he or she is being overtaken in such lane from the rear by a motor vehicle traveling at a higher rate of speed.”
Now a cop and the DA has to prove in court BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT that the officer knew what was going on in the driver's head.

AutumnLeaves
10279
Points
AutumnLeaves 07/30/14 - 12:21 pm
1
4
All this law does is fuel the

All this law does is fuel the fire in road-ragers' heads who think traffic laws are for everyone except them. If everyone would obey the PRESENT laws, for example staying at speed limits, and staying in the right lane on the highways except to pass, no one except emergency vehicles or drivers that have a life-threatening emergency would have to pass anyone except people going slower than the speed limit. The left lanes should be kept free for PROPER and SAFE passing and emergency vehicles only.

AFjoe
5566
Points
AFjoe 07/30/14 - 12:40 pm
4
0
COPS are also guilty

More than any other vehicle going just the speed limit in the left lane is the police. Cars have been backed up twenty deep on I-20 and LEO is enjoying every mile of it.
Admit it...its the truth.

hoptoad
21512
Points
hoptoad 07/30/14 - 01:43 pm
5
1
One of the northern states I

One of the northern states I lived in and had a driver's license there, a long time ago I might add, had this law. No one made anything of it, just obeyed the law, everyone went about their business and the roads were much easier to navigate. There was a lot less road rage and people who obeyed the law didn't worry about getting tickets.

It's hard to believe that some of the drivers seem to think the road is there only for their leisurely Sunday drive and no one else needs to get to a destination. They don't seem to be embarassed when they look in their mirror and see a mile of cars behind them and open road ahead but just continue on their way.

Someone may be on their way to the hospital, blocked lanes keep police, fire trucks and ambulances backed up or slowed down because they have to travel the shoulders to get where they need to go.

So be courteous and move over.

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