Whenever vehicles are stopped on the roadside, passing cars need to move over to reduce the risk of serious injuries. Law enforcement officers, other first responders, tow truck operators, and even Good Samaritans providing assistance to broken-down motorists have all been killed as a result of cars that come too close and fail to follow move over laws. A car accident involving a driver who has failed to follow rules can result in legal liability for the driver who violated the law.
Move Over Laws Can Save Lives
Pew Charitable Trusts reports 10 to 12 police officers, 50 tow truck operators, and between 8 and 10 fire rescue and EMS workers are killed working in or near moving traffic annually. The problem exists nationwide.
Every state in the U.S. has a move over law, and 44 states have strengthened their laws since 2010 as a result of ongoing deaths among first responders and tow truck operators. Unfortunately, too many drivers are not always aware of move over laws and thus do not follow them. A survey conducted in 2007 revealed 71 percent of Americans had never heard of move over laws. There must be additional public education and greater efforts to enforce these laws. Move over laws will not have an effect on improving safety unless drivers know about their obligations.
When passing obstacles on the roadside, move over laws typically require drivers to get into another lane when possible, or to slow down if it is not possible to safely change lanes. Drivers who fail to move over or slow down create unsafe conditions for those who are stopped. At the same time, drivers who do not understand move over laws can also create a hazard when they try to force their way into a lane with too much traffic. This can cause vehicles to go out of control and result in injuries to other motorists.
All move over laws cover police, fire, and ambulance and require motorists to either move over or slow to a safe speed when lights are flashing. A safe speed is below the posted speed limit. Tow truck drivers are covered by move over laws in every state but Louisiana and New Mexico.
Move over laws do not specifically require drivers to move over or slow down if motorists are on the side of the road with a broken down vehicle or if a Good Samaritan has stopped to try to help the broken down motorists. Even though it is not required in these situations, drivers should still consider slowing down or changing lanes any time a vehicle is stopped on the side of the road in order to avoid the risk of a collision. If a driver fails to slow down or move over and strikes someone on the roadside, the driver could be held responsible for his or her negligence.