Arizona, Idaho, Virginia tackle ‘move over’ rule

| 2/10/2011

A practice that has been followed by professional drivers for decades continues to draw discussion at statehouses around the nation. State lawmakers from Arizona to Virginia are reviewing rules that require travelers to make way for vehicles, typically emergency personnel, during roadside stops.

According to AAA, 49 states have implemented similar safety zone rules. Hawaii is the lone holdout.

Arizona law already requires drivers to move over to the next lane or slow down when approaching emergency vehicles on the shoulder. Violators face $250 fines.

Sen. John Nelson, R-Glendale, wants to expand the vehicles covered to include any vehicle parked on the side of the road, including large trucks.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Senior Member Brady Perry of Casa Grande, AZ, said he would welcome the protection, but he doubts most motorists would follow it.

“It would most definitely benefit safety. It’s dangerous walking around any vehicle by the roadway,” Perry told Land Line. “I just don’t think it would ever work. There are too many people who don’t know the basic driving rules.”

The bill – SB1133 – has advanced from the Senate Natural Resources and Transportation Committee to the floor by way of the Rules Committee.

In Idaho, the Senate voted Tuesday, Feb. 8, to unanimously approve a bill that addresses a perceived loophole in the state’s existing move over rule. The bill – SB1011 – now heads to the House.

State law now requires vehicles traveling on highways with two or more lanes in the same direction to change lanes as soon as possible “in a manner that is reasonable and prudent.” Violators face $85 fines.

The intent is to require drivers to change lanes out of the lane nearest to an emergency vehicle. However, drivers who have changed lanes into the lane nearest stopped emergency vehicles have claimed that they complied with the law by making the lane change.

The rule would be modified to make it clear that drivers must change lanes out of the lane adjacent to the stopped emergency vehicle.

While the rule changes in Arizona and Iowa are advancing through their respective statehouses, a change to the rule in Virginia has met its demise. Currently, state law mandates that vehicles unable to merge into a lane not adjacent to the emergency vehicle to pass with caution and “maintain a safe speed for highway conditions.”

The bill – HB1970 – sought to specify that vehicles unable to merge instead slow their speed by at least 10 mph until passing the stationary vehicle.

The subcommittee for the House Transportation Committee this week handed down a decision that essentially killed the bill.

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