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Our View: Road Rage?

One way that the Minnesota Legislature creates mischief is when a lawmaker has a good idea -- that makes for a bad law.

Take for example, a bill authored by Rep. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, that would force people to drive in the right lane of a freeway except to pass, avoid collision or enter and exit freeways.

Tomassoni wants to reduce "road rage" caused by slowpokes who amble along in the left-hand lane, blocking traffic. Anyone who has driven I-35 from Grand Avenue to the north end of the freeway understands why this law is a bad idea.

The problem on the freeway in Duluth is not with slowpokes in the left lane. The freeway is so heavily used and has so many entrances and exits that driving in the right-hand lane is more hazardous than driving in the left lane. It is often safer and faster to sit out in the left-hand lane until approaching one's exit than to try to stay in the right-hand lane with the merging and exiting traffic. We envision motorists packed into the right lane until forced left to pass, then braking because they can't get over. Like so many ideas, the bill creates a more dangerous hazard than the one it is supposed to solve.

Tomassoni's bill passed the House 80-50. It also includes a requirement that the state Department of Transportation put up one sign every 50 miles of freeway that says, "Move to the right after passing." The signs should be sufficient, but a motion to strip the right-lane provisions from the bill died on a 47-81 vote.

Tomassoni says the law won't require people to change their normal driving habits. Well, for most people "normal" is avoiding hazardous situations as much as possible. Changing lanes is almost always more hazardous than staying in the same lane.

Yes, people should stay to the right on the open freeway, but we should not have a law to insist upon it. Let common sense prevail. If Tomassoni really wants to see "road rage," wait until the Highway Patrol starts giving $80 to $100 tickets to people for driving safely -- but in the wrong lane.

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