A new law in Delaware is intended to improve safety for emergency personnel during roadside stops. The First State is at least the third state this year to make changes to existing law or adopting rules to help protect law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics and others.
The so-called “Move Over” law in Delaware has been enhanced to authorize felony charges for certain violators. Gov. Jack Markell signed into law a bill that stiffens penalties for striking an emergency worker after not moving over. It took effect immediately.
Delaware law already requires drivers to merge into a lane farther away from law enforcement, firefighters, ambulances, tow trucks and transportation workers, if practical. If unable to switch lanes, drivers are required to slow down and proceed with caution.
Violators who strike an emergency worker would face a Class F Felony.
“This law clearly states what motorists are expected to do and covers all relevant people who would be rendering aid at the side of a road,” Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, said in a statement.
Elsewhere, Maryland recently joined the list of about 45 states to implement similar safety zone rules. In addition, Washington state lawmakers tweaked their rule.
Effective Oct. 1, the Maryland law requires drivers to make room for emergency workers and law enforcement officers. Drivers will be required to maintain a safe distance and reduce speed before passing emergency vehicles parked by the road with their lights flashing.
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, the rule has been bolstered.
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.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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