North Carolina toughens 'Move Over' law

| 7/27/2005

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 2002.

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 highway.”

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 sirens activated.

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.