It’s amazing to me how many drivers in New York state seem to believe the Move Over Law is optional. Despite this very smart initiative’s having been impressed upon us several years ago, I continue to see drivers on routes 219 and 90 zoom along next to stopped police cars, utility trucks and fire trucks, without giving the operators and passengers enough courtesy to get out of the way.
But beware, fellow drivers. Law enforcement throughout the United States and Canada is taking this very real law very seriously.
The move over initiative began in South Carolina in 1994, after a local paramedic was hit and injured by a passing driver, while working at an accident site. After the paramedic was judged as being at fault in the incident, he took measures to enact the country’s first Move Over Law, in South Carolina, adopted in 1996 and then revised in 2002.
States in addition to South Carolina jumped on the safety bandwagon, swiftly putting through their own versions of move over laws to ensure the security of their law enforcement officials. Instead of being one of the ground-breakers in this drive, New York was actually one of the last states to adopt a move over law, in late 2010.
Nearly all 50 states now require drivers to change lanes when passing emergency vehicles with sirens or flashing lights on roadways with multiple lanes. If drivers are not able to switch to a different lane, they must slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit. The only places in America that do not currently have these requirements are Hawaii and Washington, D.C.
New York’s Move Over Law applies for law enforcement vehicles, fire trucks and ambulances: any vehicles that display red and/or white emergency lighting. Most recently, the law was amended to include those with flashing amber lights, like construction vehicles and tow trucks stopped by the side of the road.
This law is just common sense. We have asked our police officers, emergency responders, service workers and others to work in an arguably dangerous environment and ensure that we are OK and sent safely on our way. Why not provide them with the same courtesy?
According to Move Over America, an organization sanctioned by the National Safety Commission, the National Sheriffs’ Organization, the American Association of State Troopers and the National Organization of Police Organizations, to make drivers aware of states’ Move Over Laws, more than 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been struck and killed by passing vehicles, on American highways. These individuals might have still been alive today, if it were not for careless drivers’ actions.
During a recent trip I took out of state, the person driving the car I was riding in did not move into the other lane in time, when passing a police officer who was writing out a ticket for another driver. The officer leaped out into the roadway and made exaggerated gestures to the driver to “encourage” our vehicle to swiftly remove itself from his lane.
That was a minor reaction. Other drivers I know who were caught in the same situation have been pulled over and ticketed for not adhering to the Move Over Law. The penalties can be relatively harsh. According to Matthew Weiss Esq., a traffic lawyer, offending drivers could face up to a $275 fine and three points on their licenses.
MOA reported that 71 percent of Americans are unaware of move over initiatives, despite the fact that these laws are in place throughout the U.S. – and Canada. Yes, they are real and yes, they apply to you.
I try to keep other drivers in mind as I traverse our roads, and get out of the way for stopped vehicles, even if they are not flashing yellow lights or occupied by law enforcement personnel.
You never know when a driver will step out of his or her car and get a little too close to your vehicle. You could hit a patch of black ice at the same moment you pass a stopped car, full of passengers. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Continue to be careful out on the roadways and remember: The Move Over initiative is not only a good idea, it’s the law.