New Jersey cracks down on left-lane slowpokes

 (Cartoon by Rob Tornoe)

(Cartoon by Rob Tornoe)

This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?

– George Carlin

Just the other day, I was driving up to Philadelphia and got caught in a patch of bad traffic. Not uncommon for I-95, but I checked Google Maps before I left, and it seemed to indicate the road was clear. So what was causing the traffic? An accident perhaps? Or maybe a broken down driver?

Nope, it was a Volvo doing 10 mph under the speed limit in the left lane of the highway.

New Jersey, with the help of Gov. Chris “Stronger than the Storm” Christie’s signature, has taken a step to punish these reckless lane hoggers by doubling the fines on slow motorists that refuse to move out of the left lane.

I know what you’re thinking—our legislators are wasting their time with stupid bills like this. Normally, I’d agree with you and chalk up Christie’s signature to the fact he’ll be able to tell big money donors in Iowa he signed “stay-right” legislation. But I assure you, by increasing the fine for slow drivers in the left lane to a maximum of $300, New Jersey will save lives.

According to a spokesman for the National Motorists Association, research has shown that slower traffic actually causes more accidents than faster traffic. In fact, the accident and fatality rates on German autobahns—which have no speed limits—are comparable to highways in the U.S. due in part to the emphasis put on staying out the left lane except when passing.

The increased fines also have the potential to reduce cases of aggressive driving, as speedsters like myself won’t feel the need to tailgate some slowpoke in a fruitless attempt to get them to move over.

The caveat to all of this is enforcement. When I first heard of the legislation, I applauded it, but then my cynicism kicked in and reminded me that I’ve never seen anyone ever pulled over for driving too slow on the Parkway or Turnpike.

Much to my surprise, 4,233 tickets were written to slow drivers who violated New Jersey’s stay-right law in 2012. Although co-sponsor Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon says he hopes the bill won’t become a massive revenue generator, 4,000 tickets at $300 a pop adds up to over $1 million that could be put to good use on New Jersey’s roads.

So left-lane hogs beware. Your days of backing up traffic as you slow grove to Mary J. Blige in your busted-up Jetta are over. Now if our legislators can do something to prevent two RV’s from diving side-by-side below the speed limit and holding up traffic for miles on the Parkway, I’d … I mean, all of New Jersey … would be grateful.

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Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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