Move-Over Laws Can Help Pave the Right of Way for Emergency Responders
The weekend is approaching, and with it often comes unwieldy traffic. To help ensure safety, it is important to remember to follow the rules of the road not only for your protection, but for others as well.
In addition to requiring drivers to yield to approaching emergency vehicles with activated sirens, most states also have “move-over” laws that dictate what drivers should do when certain vehicles are stopped on the side of the road. Nearly every state has a move-over law that applies to police, fire and other emergency vehicles.
Some states’ move-over laws also pertain to roadside assistance and utility service vehicles that are parked along the side of the road. Depending on what state you’re in, you may be required to slow down or change lanes when you encounter these vehicles. In New York, for instance, the law specifies situations in which drivers must either reduce speed or move to an adjacent lane when approaching stopped police cars, emergency vehicles, tow trucks and other vehicles that have activated flashing lights.
Such laws are intended to help protect emergency responders, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Operations, and may also help reduce the number and severity of accidents involving motorists approaching the vehicles.
The Emergency Responder Safety Institute provides a map highlighting move-over laws across the country, and notes that more than half of the states have such legislation that includes roadside assistance personnel.
Situation: Your car is approached by a utility, roadside or authorized emergency vehicle
- While often not considered part of the move-over legislation, taking proper actions when approached by an emergency or utility vehicle can help keep first-responders safe. If conditions allow for you to slow down and stop, pull over to the nearest curb and get as close to it as you can without damaging your car. This might mean that you need to change lanes to give the emergency vehicles room to pass. Yield to the emergency vehicle and stay in that position until it passes.
- If you’re in the middle of an intersection, pull over to the nearest curb in order to keep the intersection clear.
Situation: You are approaching an accident scene
- If you find yourself approaching an accident, you should slow your car to a responsible speed. If an officer is directing traffic, carefully follow any instructions.
- Stay clear of the lane that is being blocked by the accident. Move to a free lane when it is appropriate or when you are signaled to do so.
- Never fully stop or park your car at the accident site unless it is to avoid a collision of your own.
Move-over laws are among many rules of the road that may vary by state. If your travel plans will take you across state lines, you may want to read up on the applicable laws before you hit the road.