Montana Senate OKs revamped 'move over' rule

| Friday, March 09, 2007

A law in Montana that mandates a common-sense practice that road veterans have followed for decades would get a facelift under a bill that is halfway through the statehouse.

The Senate voted 47-3 to approve a revised measure, dubbed the "Move Over" bill, designed to protect police and other emergency personnel during roadside stops. It now heads to the House for consideration.

Montana law now requires motorists to yield the right-of-way when an ambulance or police vehicle is approaching with lights and sirens activated. It also mandates that drivers reduce speed when approaching stationary emergency vehicles that are alongside the road with their lights flashing.

If possible, they also would be required to merge into a lane further away from an emergency vehicle.

Sponsored by Sen. John Esp, R-Big Timber, the bill is intended to further enhance the state's safety measures for police and other emergency personnel along roadsides.

On highways with posted speed limits of 50 mph or more, not only would drivers be required to merge into a lane further away from an emergency vehicle but they also would be required to reduce their speed by 25 mph.

On highways with one lane in each direction, drivers would be required to move as far left as possible before passing the emergency vehicle.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 30 states have implemented similar safety zone rules.

The Montana bill - SB222 - is awaiting assignment to committee in the House.

Similar measures have been offered in states that include Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island.