A practice that is old hat to most truckers is going over
like a lead balloon for drivers in North Carolina.
In response, a bill before a state House judiciary panel
would toughen crimes and penalties for motorists who don’t slow down or move
over for emergency vehicles.
“If you ignore these vehicles … there are consequences,” said Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Madison.
The effort comes in response to recent reports that judges
are throwing out traffic citations against motorists because they say the
public hasn’t been alerted to changes in North Carolina law, which was passed
According to The Associated Press, judges say drivers
are particularly unaware of a law requiring vehicles to change lanes or reduce
speed when they approach an emergency vehicle parked or standing by the side of
the road with flashing lights.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is posting
large signs on interstates near the state’s borders alerting motorists of the
current “Move Over” law.
In addition, Rapp is one of dozens of lawmakers who have
signed on to a bill – HB288 – that would raise the severity of crimes for
failure to obey the law.
Motorists who fail to move to another lane when approaching
a stopped emergency vehicle on a multilane road could be fined up to $250
and/or get four months in jail.
Current state law allows for a fine of up to $25 and $100 in
Motorists whose inaction results in an accident could be
fined up to $500 and/or six months in jail. If an emergency worker is injured
or killed, offenders could get a much as four years in prison, a $5,000 fine
and a two-year license revocation.
Failure to pull over when an ambulance or police vehicle is
approaching with lights and sirens also could result in a more severe penalty.
Several groups have offered to participate in public
information efforts to alert motorists to any additional changes to the law.