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Bush vetoes road rage bill

His rejection of the proposal, widely supported by law agencies and the Legislature, is the first of those likely this year.

By LUCY MORGAN
Published May 20, 2005


TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday vetoed a bill designed to cut down on road rage by forcing slow drivers out of the fast lanes of Florida highways.

Bush questioned whether the bill was sound policy based on research.

"The bill appears to address a perception, rather than an empirically established reality, that Florida is experiencing road incidents connected with so-called "rolling roadblocks' created when inconsiderate or unwitting drivers occupy the left hand lane while proceeding along at the same speed as right-lane traffic," Bush said.

Though it was widely supported by law enforcement, Bush questioned whether it would be a proper priority for police with limited resources to target law-abiding motorists who fail to make way for an approaching speeder.

"The predominate shortcoming of the bill is that it seeks to provide relief for those traveling at high rates of speed, or possessed of emotional intemperance, at the expense of cautious and careful drivers," Bush wrote in a letter accompanying his veto.

It was the first bill Bush has vetoed this year, but likely not the last. The 2005 Legislature failed to approve some of the governor's top priorities.

The Road Rage Reduction Act (HB 157), sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and Rep. Ken Sorensen, R-Key Largo, won widespread support from legislators in both chambers. The Senate passed it 28-10 and the House 113-4. It had strong support from the Police Benevolent Association, Florida sheriffs and the Florida Highway Patrol.

Bennett said the veto surprised and disappointed him.

"I've seen him make other mistakes," Bennett said. "It's really a shame, we have a piece of legislation passed by 21 other states, reviewed by eight or nine committees over two or three years and voted in by 130 people, but somebody in the governor's office didn't like it."

Bennett said he doesn't believe lawmakers will try to override the governor's veto.

Sorensen said he believes the bill will return and pass another day.

"I think the governor's staff misled him to think this was an issue about speed," Sorensen said. "It's about flow control."

Supporters said the bill was needed because some drivers won't budge from the left lane, impeding traffic and forcing other drivers to dart between lanes and sometimes cause accidents. Police thought it would cut down on road rage by allowing hurried drivers to get by slower drivers.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-Port Richey, opposed the measure, saying it would shift the focus of law enforcement from penalizing unsafe drivers to penalizing safe drivers.

The bill included some exceptions, such as conditions making it impractical or dangerous to drive in the right lane or when a left-side exit was near. It would have applied only on certain highways.

Drivers ticketed under the bill would have faced fines of up to $60 and four points against their licenses.

In at least 21 states slower traffic is expected to keep right except to pass and several states have passed laws imposing a fine on drivers who drive too slow in the left lane.

THE ROAD RAGE REDUCTION ACT

The Road Rage Reduction Act generally prohibits highway motorists from driving in the left-hand lane unless they are passing. Under the proposal, critics pointed out during House debate, motorists could in fact be ticketed for obeying the speed limit. But supporters said the bill is needed because some drivers won't budge from the left-hand lane. They impede traffic and encourage other motorists to dart between lanes, leading to accidents, said Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill.

[Last modified May 20, 2005, 01:15:16]


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