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

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 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.”

One thought on “State ‘Move Over’ law to get tougher

  1. I would like to read the move-over law,but only get a brochure from WSP that doen’t say anything but “moveover its the law”

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