Gov. Jon Corzine signed a bill into law that is intended to make New Jersey roadways safer for emergency personnel and other highway users. A related effort remains active.
New Jersey law already requires motorists to yield the right-of-way when an ambulance, police vehicle or fire truck is approaching with lights and sirens activated. A new law is designed to protect emergency personnel and certain other vehicles that are alongside the road with their lights flashing.
Drivers are required to maintain a safe distance and reduce speed before passing emergency vehicles, tow trucks or highway maintenance vehicles that are parked by the road with their lights flashing.
Previously S180, the new law now in effect requires drivers to merge, if practical, into a lane farther away from emergency vehicles, tow trucks or highway maintenance vehicles with red and blue lights. On two-lane highways, drivers are required to reduce speed before passing.
Failure to obey the rule would result in up to $500 fines.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about 40 states have implemented similar safety zone rules.
A separate bill also targets driving around emergency personnel. Sponsored by Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Denville, the measure would also clear the path for oncoming vehicles that have blue emergency warning lights.
Vehicles in the blue-light category include volunteer fire companies and volunteer first aid or rescue squads. These volunteers are authorized to activate blue emergency warning lights only when responding to emergency calls.
The bill also would modify fine amounts for violations. Failure to yield would result in $100 fines – up from $50. Repeat offenders would face $200 fines. In addition, a provision in existing law would be removed that also allows for 15 days in jail.
Bucco’s bill – S2121 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee.
To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2009, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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