Tag Archives: move over

Warnings common in Move Over Law enforcement

The in basket: Three years ago, the State Patrol put out a news release saying they would be emphasizing enforcement on a new law requiring drivers to move over or slow down for any emergency vehicle stopped on the shoulder with its emergency lights flashing.

A couple of months ago, I asked Trooper Russ Winger, who speaks for the local patrol detachment,. how that enforcement had been going. He said he was researching that.

The out basket: Tuesday, he provided a report on what he’d found.

“I polled troopers (here) about enforcement of the Move Over Law,” he said. “I received quite a few responses and the underlying theme is that while troopers stop cars for the violation, actual ticketing is low.

“Many of the troopers felt that there is some effort by motorists to comply with the law and they use any contacts to further educate drivers about (it).

“Several of the troopers responded that they feel the roadways could use more signage about the law. There seem to be very few regulatory signs along the roadways, and more might help.

“Many motorists that are stopped say they were unaware of the law and its requirements. Again, the WSP always tries to educate motorists, taking the least amount of enforcement to gain compliance.”

He included a newer news release quoting WSP Chief John Batiste on the subject:

“This law couldn’t be easier to comply with,” said Batiste. “All you have to do is ease off the gas and, if it’s safe, ease to the left.” Batiste added a caution, however, about sudden maneuvers intended to comply with the law. He stressed that simply slowing down and easing left is sufficient. “We don’t want people making sudden maneuvers that could be even more dangerous,” he said.

He didn’t say so, but his advice applies only to multi-lane highways. They don’t want you easing to the left into oncoming traffic on a two-lane highway. Just slow down (“ease off the gas”) on those roadways.

Since the law went into effect, state troopers have contacted more than 10,000 violators using a mix of education and enforcement to win compliance, he said. Troopers report that most drivers understand the reason for the law once it’s explained to them.

The law applies to ambulances, tow trucks and highway maintenance vehicles as well as the police.

There has been some wild-eyed e-mails about this kind of law in other states, claiming greatly exaggerated fines and reduced speed requirements. If you get one, ignore it.

How much to slow down if you can’t ‘move over’ is still uncertain

The in basket: Leroy McVay, a regular Road Warrior reader in Poulsbo, writes, in what seems like a primitive form of text messaging, “Recently got an e-mail from a friend in OK. that her friend got a megabucks ticket for not slowing down enough in a ‘move over’ situation with police and aid units.  Was end of September, saw several LARGE black & white signs along the highway reminding people to ‘move over.’
“The best info I’ve seen on this law came from your column in the Sun,” Leroy said. “I still haven’t heard how much we’re expected to slow down if we can’t move over.  5 mph?  15 mph?  Perhaps you can get the answer to my question and save someone a BIG ticket.”

The out basket: It remains a “know it when they see it” situation for the police. Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the State Patrol detachment here refers us to one of her agency’s online “Good to Know” advisories on the subject, but it’s only 48 seconds long and spends most of its advice on the ‘Move Over” part of the law, not the ‘slow down’ part. You can see it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9L8YIyt90U.

I’d say that even if you do move over, you won’t want to be traveling over the speed limit as you pass the emergency. And a ticket is more likely if there were no vehicles in the next lane to keep you from moving over and you don’t.

Krista says, “You can usually tell when someone slows down or has room to move over.  Most drivers are getting pretty good at slowing down and moving over.”

It won’t do you or me any good in court if we are cited for this, but I would argue that since the law applies to just 200 feet before and after the emergency vehicle, which doesn’t give you a lot of time to react at highway speeds, getting down to 10 mph under the speed limit would be a nice compromise between not endangering those on the shoulder and not creating a whole new emergency behind you.

Certainly, using your brakes to slow rather than just taking your foot off the gas would show an officer traveling behind you that you made an effort.

I’d also take that e-mail about the megabucks ticket with a grain of salt. This new law in several states has produced a few urban legend type misrepresentations.

State ‘Move Over’ law to get tougher


The in basket: Linda Wilson sent along an e-mail she recently received that contends that California has just passed a “Move Over” law that can bring a $754 ticket for not moving to the left to give room to police or other emergency vehicles on the roadside with their flashing lights working.

If you can’t move left, you have to slow to 20 miles per hour, the e-mail said. It claims that “a friend’s son” got such a ticket recently.

He slowed down to pass two patrol cars on the shoulder “but did not move into the other lane,” went the story. “The second police car immediately pulled him over and gave him a ticket.”

The infraction supposedly counts three points against your  driving record and requires a mandatory court appearance, it said.

Finally, it listed a Web site that supposedly confirmed it all as true. That is www.moveoveramerica.com.

The out basket: It is not a true story, and makes the urban legend Web sites as a hoax.

But it’s a timely one for those of us in Washington state, which also has a Move Over law. The Legislature has just upped the ante substantially for not making an effort to give emergency vehicles on the shoulder a wide berth. In some circumstances, the penalty could be a lot more than $754.

First, about the e-mail. California has had a Move Over law since 2007, and this year just added state highway department vehicles to those that require other drivers to move over or slow down when they see the emergency lights in use. 

The fine is $50 or less. Though local add-ons can increase that, it wouldn’t come to anything near $754. 

The California law merely requires a reasonable speed for conditions. The one in Texas may include the 20 mph requirement to stay in the closest lane to the emergency.

The site www.moveoveramerica.com merely confirms the existence of Move Over laws in most states, not the spurious claims about California.

As for the changes in Washington state, which become effective next Jan. 1, they specify that the emergency zone where the law is effective is within 200 feet on either side of a stationery emergency vehicle on the shoulder with lights flashing. That wasn’t defined in the original law.

There is no 20 mph requirement, but it doubles the fine for exceeding the speed limit past such a vehicle in any lane. My state patrol contact, Trooper Krista Hedstrom, isn’t sure what the fine or fines to be doubled will be. It probably will vary with how far over the speed limit the driver is traveling.

But if the driver is found to actually endanger emergency personnel on the roadside, it can be cited as the gross misdemeanor of reckless endangerment, with the potential for a year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, plus a 60-day license suspension. Even without hiring a lawyer to fight it, such a citation could cost into the thousands.

“The bill also requires the state (within existing resources) to do education regarding the new law in the 90 days after the bill becomes effective,”  Krista said.  

“WSP Government and Media Relations will be working the next few months on a plan to get this message out come January, which will probably include some sort of statewide press event and a media plan.”

Have you heard of the “Move Over Law?”


The in basket: The in basket: Beverly Hanson of Bremerton wrote to say, “When I recently was visiting Florida, I was made aware of the Move-Over Law enacted there, meaning that when there is police or emergency car pulled over to the side, you must, if at all possible, move into another lane even if that emergency vehicle is not in a lane. 

“They have a large fine for not complying and reflects points which can make your insurance increase as well. 

“Lately,” Beverly said, “I have been reading that the Move Over Law is in place in most states.  Washington State was not listed as being one that doesn’t have the law, so am I to assume it is in place. 

“If so, there sure isn’t any notice about it.  We all know to slow down, but getting into another lane is not in our consciousness at this time.”

The out basket. Well, allow me to make it a little more well known. This state has had the same law, also called the Move Over Law, in force since 2005. 

State Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the Bremerton detachment says, “Last year, troopers statewide stopped 997 cars for this violation, (of which) 245 received $124 infractions. 

“I know the Seattle-based media (KING5, KOMO4, KIRO7, Q13) have all covered this issue numerous times. There was also a large campaign done throughout Kitsap County when this law became effective in 2005.  The (state traffic safety commission) printed up brochures containing information on the law, which are still handed out at public safety events.

“And still,” she said, “I see drivers violating this law on a regular basis.  Usually when this violation occurs, the trooper is already on a traffic stop and cannot drop what they are doing to chase after the driver who failed to move over.  Troopers will continue to stop drivers for this violation.”

The law also protects tow trucks, fire engines, ambulances and highways crews working on emergency repairs, when they have their emergency lights flashing. A police officer is less likely to be tied down on another detail and able to come after you in those cases.

“We plan to do an emphasis soon focusing on this violation, ” Krista  said. 
“It is so common – we hear about police vehicles and WSDOT vehicles getting rear ended all the time.

You don’t have to move over it isn’t safe to do so (as when another car is in the next lane), the law says, but you must slow down if you can’t move over.