What is a Move over Law?

N. Farley

A move over law is a law that requires drivers to slow down or change lanes when they see a law enforcement vehicle or emergency vehicle that is stopped on the side of the road or is traveling with its flashing lights or siren on. This type of law was first created in the United States in 1994 after a paramedic in South Carolina was hit by a vehicle and injured while working at an accident site. The purpose of a move over law is to provide greater safety clearance for emergency workers and law enforcement officials and to allow them to reach their destination more quickly. Move over laws have become more common, but they do not exist in every jurisdiction.

Drivers must move over when police are chasing an offender.
Drivers must move over when police are chasing an offender.

The specific requirements of a move over law can vary from one place to another, but the principles generally are the same. This type of law might require drivers to move over one lane if they see an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing or stopped on the side of the road. If it isn't safe for the vehicle to move over a lane, the driver might be required to slow down to a certain speed. For example, drivers might be required to go no faster than 40 miles per hour (64 km/hour) or to go no faster than 20 miles per hour (32 km/hour) below the posted speed limit when passing a law enforcement vehicle or emergency vehicle. These laws typically do not apply when the law enforcement vehicle or emergency vehicle is on the other side of a divided highway.

Drivers must changes lanes when a emergency vehicle is stopped on the side of the road.
Drivers must changes lanes when a emergency vehicle is stopped on the side of the road.

These laws can apply to police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and possibly other emergency vehicles, such as tow trucks. A move over law helps protect law enforcement officials and emergency workers from being injured while performing their jobs. Despite the increased prevalence of move over laws, research has shown that many drivers have not heard of them or do not know what they require. In some places, roadside signs have been posted to increase driver awareness of existing move over laws.

Move over laws help protect emergency workers from injury as they are performing their jobs on highways, streets and roads.
Move over laws help protect emergency workers from injury as they are performing their jobs on highways, streets and roads.
Flashing police lights are often used as a warning system for motorists.
Flashing police lights are often used as a warning system for motorists.

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