S.C. State House roundup: Lawmakers differ on penalties for slow drivers in left lane

Published: Mar. 20, 2021 at 12:57 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. - If you’re holding up traffic in the fast lane, it could become a ticket-able offense in South Carolina.

A bill is working through Columbia to crack down on driving too slow in the left lane. However, both the House and the Senate haven’t agreed on just how much it would cost you.

“We want to make sure we send bills over to the Senate that are good bills and that have a really good chance at getting signed off on over there,” said District 107 Rep. Case Brittain. “We took the two points off because we didn’t want insurance to be a problem.”

Brittain was one of 108 lawmakers who unanimously decided to pass the bill, which would make driving in the left lane without the intention of passing a misdemeanor offense with a $200 fine.

However, he and the rest of the House thought taking two points off the license was a little too much.

Some Senate leaders think the consequence is still a little steep.

The Senate Transportation Committee reviewed the bill and changed it to just a $25 fine.

Sen. Stephen Goldfinch isn’t on the committee, but he can see where they’re coming from.

“I think that’s probably a good fee that keeps most of these out of court,” he said. “We’ve got enough of a backlog in court as it is with the pandemic.”

Goldfinch also mentioned that for this area especially, people from out of state who get a left lane ticket likely won’t make the effort to come back for court, which would backlog other proceedings.

Brittain is interested to see what the Senate’s decision ultimately is because he thinks $25 doesn’t give the law enough weight.

“It has to have teeth in it to make sure people take notice,” he said. “There are people that are causing wrecks because they are trying to get around people who are driving too slow in the left lane. It’s supposed to be for passing only.”

Goldfinch, however, thinks getting pulled over itself leaves enough of an impact, and the smaller ticket makes it more enforceable.

“It’s an inconvenience to get pulled in the first place,” said Goldfinch. “Repeat offenders are going to get popped with that $25 fine every time. They’re eventually going to learn their lesson or go broke in the process.”

Both lawmakers agree, however, the bill itself is a necessity.

“If you have someone in the left-hand lane that is going below the speed limit, and you have someone behind them trying to get around, there’s a particular problem there that could cause great consequence,” said Brittain.

Goldfinch says this bill will likely hit the Senate floor next week and will go back over to the House for another vote before potentially heading to the governor’s desk.

“We just have a culture in South Carolina that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else where you can drive sort of carelessly in the lane for miles and miles,” he said. “At the best, it’s clogging traffic. At the worst, it’s causing emergency vehicles problems getting through.”

Also at the State House ...

  • A legislative committee has approved spending $313,000 on devices that clean the air of viruses and mold in the six buildings on the South Carolina State House grounds. Officials expect the air ionizing devices should be in place next month. The Post and Courier of Charleston reports the state prison system already has installed some of the machines and said they immediately slowed the spread of COVID-19 among inmates and workers. The devices can eliminate the coronavirus, but also other more common viruses that cause illnesses. They can also eliminate mold, an important consideration in a complex where each building is at least 40 years old.
  • South Carolina’s attorney general has sent four unresolved Statehouse corruption cases to a Republican prosecutor in Spartanburg County to handle. The state Supreme Court ruled in January that Democratic prosecutor David Pascoe of Orangeburg exceeded his authority. The justices ruled Pascoe should not have continued his investigation beyond the few cases Attorney General Alan Wilson gave him because of a possible conflict of interest. The cases involve perjury and obstruction of justice charges against political consultant Richard Quinn Sr., as well as cases against three former Republican members of the General Assembly.

From reports by Zach Wilcox of WMBF and The Associated Press