North Carolina pursues harsher penalties for failure to 'move over'

| Tuesday, March 15, 2005

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 in 2002.

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 court costs.

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.

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