State laws in effect July 1 focus on road safety

| 7/1/2011

Efforts to improve safety on roadways in various states take effect today, July 1.

A commonsense rule of the road that many professional drivers and others have followed for decades is getting some attention in two states. Dubbed the “move over” law, it requires 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.

In Idaho, the new law addresses a perceived loophole in the state’s move over law.

State law 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.

Starting Friday, the new rule modifies the requirement to make it clear that drivers must change lanes out of the lane adjacent to the stopped emergency vehicle.

In Tennessee, the list of vehicles covered under the move over rule is being expanded to include utility vehicles.

People traveling through Tennessee already are required to move into a lane away from emergency vehicles and highway maintenance vehicles, including tow trucks, parked along roadsides with lights flashing. If unable to move over, drivers are required to reduce speed and maintain a safe distance. Offenders face fines starting at $100.

Another new law in Tennessee pumps up the cost of traffic tickets by as much as $70.

The law tacks a $13.75 fee on each traffic violation. The fees can quickly add up because officers can issue citations for as many as five violations on a single ticket.

Additional revenue from the fees is earmarked for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab services.

An Indiana law that goes on the books Friday addresses work zone safety. The new law specifies the speed limit in a designated highway work zone must be at least 10 mph below the normal speed in the area.

Violators face fines of at least $300.

In addition, all forms of dangerous driving in the affected areas will carry harsher penalties. Offenses include following too closely, improper lane changes, driver fatigue and failure to yield the right of way.

Committing any one of these offenses, or other similar offenses, in work zones would result in fines of up to $1,000.

Revenue generated from violations specified in the law will be used to hire off-duty officers to patrol work zones.

“This new law is not just about highway workers,” Transportation Commissioner Michael Cline said in a statement. “On average, four out of every five people killed in highway work zones are motorists.”
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