Maryland, Washington state address ‘move over’ rule

| 8/17/2010

During the past several months many efforts have been made at statehouses to increase safety on roadways. While legislation addressing the use of text messaging devices and tougher penalties for drunken drivers grabbed much of the attention, other safety-related initiatives have included protecting emergency personnel during roadside stops.

Maryland joined a list of about 45 states that have implemented similar safety zone rules. Elsewhere, Washington state lawmakers tweaked their rule.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law a bill that requires drivers to make room for emergency workers and law enforcement officers. It takes effect Oct. 1.

Drivers will be required to maintain a safe distance and reduce speed before passing emergency vehicles parked by the road with their lights flashing.

The so-called “move over” initiative – SB324 – requires drivers to merge into a lane farther away from emergency vehicles, if practical. If unable to switch lanes, drivers will be required to slow to a “reasonable and prudent speed” to help ensure the safety of emergency personnel, including police.

Violators would face $500 fines.

While Washington state already requires drivers to make room for certain emergency, roadside assistance or police vehicles stopped along roadsides, lawmakers and Gov. Chris Gregoire decided to bolster the rule.

Previously HB2464, the new law defines “emergency zones.” As of Jan. 1, 2011, traveling within 200 feet of parked emergency vehicles with lights flashing will be in the zone.

Speeding fines in these protected areas would be double. Violators could also face charges of reckless endangerment of emergency workers and loss of driving privileges for 60 days, up to one year in jail, and as much as $5,000 in fines.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maryland, click here. To view other legislative activities of interest for Washington, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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