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States Toughen ‘Move Over’ Laws to Protect First Responders, Roadside Workers

All states require motorists to change lanes or slow down for emergency vehicles, but some have included all disabled vehicles—the most all-encompassing version of move over statutes.

By Mia Geoly  |  September 25, 2023

Vehicles failing to slow down or move over for stopped or disabled vehicles on the roadside pose significant risk to all road users, but especially to first responders—police, fire and medical personnel—and roadside workers.

According to AAA, an average of 24 emergency responders, including tow truck drivers, are killed each year while working roadside. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that 300 people annually die in crashes where a pedestrian is leaving, working on or returning to a stopped vehicle, a more than 25% increase since 2014.

To make roadsides safer, states have passed move over laws, which typically require drivers to slow down and/or change lanes when approaching emergency or other prescribed vehicles that are stopped on the roadway. All 50 states and Washington, D.C., have enacted such laws, according to the Government Accountability Office. The vehicles included under the statutes vary, but all states include first responders, according to AAA internal research. All states, but not Washington, D.C., include tow trucks in their move over statutes. Often included are municipal vehicles, utility vehicles, road maintenance vehicles and disabled vehicles. Penalties for violations range from $30 to $2,500.

NCSL’s “Move Over, Slow Down” brief details recent state legislation on the topic and provides examples of states that collect data regarding move-over-related crashes.

At least eight states—Colorado, Florida, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington—enacted move over bills this year. Most of the bills amended the vehicles included in state statutes so that motorists must move over or slow down for all disabled vehicles—the most all-encompassing version of move over statutes. The other enacted bills address public awareness and add highway maintenance and utility service vehicles.

Of the eight states enacted move over legislation in 2023, six added all disabled vehicles to their statutes.

Other notable enactments:

  • Colorado (HB 1123) added requirements to slow down or move over for all vehicles displaying hazard lights as well as public utility vehicles.
  • Florida (HB 425) included road and bridge maintenance vehicles, as well as all disabled vehicles, in its statute.
  • Maine (SB 399) required motorists to move over a lane or slow to a “reasonable or prudent” speed when passing a disabled vehicle.
  • North Dakota (HB 1141) included all stationary vehicles in its law.
  • Rhode Island (SB 88) required drivers to reduce speed when approaching any nonemergency vehicle on the side of the road.
  • Virginia (HB 1932) added vehicles displaying hazard warning flashers, caution signs, flares or torches. Montana included (HB 320) highway maintenance and utility service vehicles Washington (SB 5023) added a requirement to slow down on four-lane highways, and a requirement to reduce speed to 50 mph on highways with a 60 mph limit if the motorist can’t move over when approaching an emergency vehicle.

Additionally, Washington state took the notable step of funding multiple move over-related initiatives in its transportation appropriations bill (HB 1125). This includes money from the highway safety fund for the Department of Transportation to provide written materials on move over laws, to develop signage for licensing offices and to include new driver curricula on the state’s move over law. The bill also requires the department to post move over safety reminders on electronic traffic message boards across the state through June 30, 2025.

Mia Geoly is a policy analyst in NCSL’s Transportation Program.

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