Tennessee seeks stiffer penalties for failure to yield to emergency vehicles

| 2/28/2006

A Tennessee state lawmaker is calling for stiffer penalties for drivers in the state who fail to make room for emergency vehicles.

State law that was approved in 2004 requires drivers to maintain a safe distance and reduce speed when approaching emergency vehicles that are parked by the road with their lights flashing.

The rule, which has been followed by professional truck drivers for decades, is intended to protect police and other emergency personnel during roadside stops.

Drivers are required to merge into the furthest lane away from an emergency vehicle, if practical. On two-lane highways, drivers must slow down on approach before passing the emergency vehicle.

Violators could be fined $50.

But a bill offered by Rep. Joe Fowlkes, D-Cornersville, would boost the penalty. Violators would face up to a $500 fine and/or as many as 30 days in jail.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 30 states have implemented similar safety zone rules. Colorado and North Carolina implemented their rules a year ago.

Fowlkes’ bill – HB2513 – is in the House Transportation Committee.