Revamped ‘move over’ rule nears passage in Montana

| 4/18/2007

A law in Montana that mandates a common-sense practice that road veterans have followed for decades would get a face lift under a bill that is nearing passage in the statehouse.

The House voted 78-21 to approve a revised measure, dubbed the “Move Over” bill, designed to protect police and other emergency personnel during roadside stops. It now heads back to the Senate for final approval before moving to Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s desk.

Montana law now requires motorists to yield the right-of-way when an ambulance or police vehicle is approaching with lights and sirens activated. It also mandates that drivers reduce speed when approaching stationary emergency vehicles that are alongside the road with their lights flashing.

If possible, they also would be required to merge into a lane further away from an emergency vehicle.

Sponsored by Sen. John Esp, R-Big Timber, the bill – SB222 – is intended to further enhance the state’s safety measures for police and other emergency personnel along roadsides.

On highways with posted speed limits of 50 mph or more, not only would drivers be required to merge into a lane further away from an emergency vehicle but they also would be required to reduce their speed by 20 mph. The Senate-approved version called for a 25-mph reduction.

On highways with one lane in each direction, drivers would be required to move as far left as possible before passing the emergency vehicle.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 30 states have implemented similar safety zone rules.

Similar measures have been offered in states that include Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island.