Local and federal governments are always devising new ways to improve car safety for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Minimizing injuries and deaths on the road is a top priority. And one way that states are making streets safer is with “move over” laws, which protect first responders. What is a move over law, and how does it differ from state to state?
What is a move over law?
One requires motorists to pull over to the right and stop when they hear sirens or see flashing lights, especially in their rearview mirror or at an intersection.
The other scenario involves drivers who see stationary flashing lights ahead in the same direction. When this happens, drivers should move at least one lane to the left, slow down, and prepare to receive additional instructions from emergency personnel.
What led to move over laws?
South Carolina was the first state to pass a move over law, signing the first-of-its-kind bill in 1996 after a paramedic was found at fault after a car struck him as he was assisting a passenger on the side of the road.
After several similar incidents, the Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Association decided on a national standard in 2000. Over the next dozen years, all 50 states followed suit and instituted their own move over laws fine-tuned to their own specifications. And in July 2012, Hawaii became the final state to pass its own legislation.
How the law differs among states
Because each state has its own legislation, it’s important to know the differences in the laws among states if you do a lot of interstate travel. Here’s how some of the most populous states have worded their laws, according to AAA:
California law requires motorists to slow down and exit the lane closest to stationary emergency vehicles with their lights flashing if it’s safe to do so. In addition, the state’s law extends the protection to tow trucks and Caltrans vehicles with flashing amber warning lights.
In the Sunshine State, drivers approaching emergency vehicles with flashing lights must leave the lane closest to the vehicles if it is safe. Otherwise, they must slow down below the posted limit “to a speed reasonable for road and traffic conditions.” Florida’s legislation also includes towing and recovery vehicles, utility vehicles, and road maintenance vehicles.
New York law applies to authorized emergency response vehicles, maintenance vehicles, or tow trucks with flashing lights. When a driver traveling in the same direction sees one of those vehicles “parked, stopped, or standing on the shoulder or any portion of the highway,” the motorist must move from a lane immediately adjacent and reduce their speed to avoid hitting those vehicles.
In Texas, motorists must exit the lane closest to the emergency vehicle and reduce their speed to no more than 20 mph below a posted speed limit of at least 25 mph when approaching a vehicle covered by the law. In the Lone Star State, applicable emergency vehicles include tow trucks and state DMV vehicles and their workers.