House Bill 459, which passed 162-9, was sponsored by Rep. Bill Hitchens, a Rincon Republican who is the former head of the Georgia State Patrol.
“This is the good manners your mother should have taught you,” he said, comparing it to golfers letting faster groups play through.
Penalties could be as much as a $1,000 fine and 12 months in prison, but Hitchens acknowledged it would be hard to enforce.
“My reason for doing it is for education purposes,” he said, noting angry drivers could react with road rage or spur accidents in an effort to get around slower motorists.
Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Ramone Lamkin said he sees the bill being more beneficial to state troopers who work the interstate, where this issue is most common, than to his deputies. On the interstate, slow drivers sometimes cause traffic to back up for miles.
“It definitely will be beneficial in those instances to just stop that first vehicle and have it move to the right lane,” said Lamkin, who worked with the Georgia State Patrol for 10 years before coming to the sheriff’s office.
Many Richmond County roads, such as Peach Orchard and Deans Bridge, have three lanes and there isn’t usually a lane clogging issue, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, Lamkin said. Local instances of road rage from slow, left-lane drivers have shown up on YouTube, he said.
Some drivers insist they should not have to move out of the left lane if they are going the speed limit, but Lamkin said that’s not necessarily true.
“You still need to be courteous to other drivers. That’s the main point we need to emphasize to all drivers here in Georgia and especially Richmond County,” he said.
“You need to make every effort to let that vehicle pass. You never know what’s going on. It could be an emergency.”
Police have run into problems of their own when responding to emergencies and getting behind a “slow poke” driver.
“We’re taught to take that left lane,” Lamkin said. “If you’re holding up traffic and have that left lane blocked with traffic backed up, that can create a risk to law enforcement and emergency personnel.”
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.