Six states pursue, adopt rules to improve roadside safety

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, April 18, 2014

A new law in Wisconsin would expand the types of vehicles covered under the state’s existing “Move Over” law. Multiple states are pursuing similar changes.

Wisconsin law requires vehicles to make way or slow down when an emergency vehicle, tow truck or highway work vehicle is parked within 12 feet of the roadway with lights flashing.

Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law adding public utility vehicles to the protected list.

In Maryland, a bill on the governor’s desk also covers buffer zones for emergency personnel and others along roadsides.

Since October 2010, Maryland law has required vehicles approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights to move into a lane away from the vehicle. If unable to change lanes, drivers are required to reduce speed.

Law enforcement in the state issued 2,444 citations to violators a year ago, according to a state fiscal note.

The fine for failure to make way for emergency personnel is $110 and one point against the operator’s license. If an accident occurs, violators face a $150 fine and three penalty points. If injury or death occurs, the fine could reach $750 with three points added.

The Maryland Senate voted 124-11 to send a bill to Gov. Martin O’Malley that would add tow trucks to the protected list. SB3 would also increase fines to as much as $500 – up from $110.

A Florida bill would also add to the state’s protected list.

In place since 2002, Florida law requires drivers to slow down and shift lanes if possible to make room for police, ambulance and fire personnel alongside roadsides.

HB469 would include utility service vehicles and sanitation vehicles in the protected list.

In nearby Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill into law adding sanitation vehicles, or trash trucks, to the state’s list of protected vehicles.

Mississippi law already protects emergency vehicles, tow trucks and highway maintenance vehicles.

Violators face $250 fines. Incidents that result in wrecks or injury could increase fines to $1,000.

Rhode Island lawmakers are also reviewing changes to their Move Over law.

The House could soon vote to send a bill to Gov. Lincoln Chafee that would add highway maintenance equipment while at work to the list of protected vehicles that already include emergency personnel, tow trucks and roadside assistance vehicles.

In Ohio, law enforcement this month can now issue citations to drivers who fail to move over for highway maintenance and construction vehicles, such as snow plows, road sweeper and mowing machines.

Gov. John Kasich signed a bill into law in December 2013 to expand the types of vehicles covered under the state’s existing Move Over law. Drivers in the state already are required to slow down and shift lanes if possible to make room for police, ambulance, fire and road service vehicles.

Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray stated “the expanded Move Over law is a critical step to improving safety of our workers.”

Since 2008, the state reports that more than 600 collisions have occurred between the traveling public and ODOT vehicles and equipment.

Safety advocates say such commonsense laws wouldn’t be necessary if more drivers would follow the simple rule: If you see flashing lights, or if you see signs and flares, you need to move over if possible and slow down.

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