Drivers in North Carolina soon will face stiffer penalties
if they don’t slow down or move over for emergency vehicles.
Gov. Mike Easley has signed a bill into law that could
result in a $250 fine for motorists who fail to move to another lane when
approaching an emergency vehicle that has its lights flashing and is parked by
the side of multilane roads or reduces speed while on a two-lane road.
Violators also would pay $100 in court costs.
The old rule fines offenders $25 plus $100 in court costs.
Motorists whose inaction results in an accident, injury or
death would face the increased penalty. If an emergency official is seriously
injured or killed, offenders could get possible prison time and a six-month
driver’s license revocation.
The stiffer penalty comes in response to 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 passed in
Since 2003, at least 70 troopers have been injured during
roadside stops, The Associated Press reported.
“This law isn’t just designed for state troopers,” State
Highway Patrol Sgt. Kevin Bray, told The AP. “It’s designed for
troopers, firemen, ambulance drivers and people who just have bad luck on the
In an effort to educate all drivers of the state’s “Move
Over” law, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is posting large
signs on interstates throughout the state alerting motorists of the rule.
The stiffer penalties, which won unanimous support in the
Legislature, take effect in July 2006.
North Carolina isn’t the only state recently to alter its
safety zone rule.
Colorado enacted a similar law that took effect July 1.
Colorado law already requires motorists to yield the
right-of-way when an ambulance or police vehicle is approaching with lights and
The new law requires motorists to also maintain a safe
distance and reduce speed when approaching stationary emergency vehicles that
are alongside the road with their lights flashing.
The new rule requires drivers to merge into a lane further
away from an emergency vehicle. On two-lane highways, drivers are required to
reduce speed before passing the emergency vehicle.
Failure to obey the law would result in at least a $50 fine
and a four-point penalty on an offender’s license.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures,
at least 30 states have implemented similar safety zone rules.