- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
In recent months, Maryland State Police troopers have been out in force to remind drivers about a law on the books — one directly aimed at protecting the lives of law enforcement and emergency workers.
The Maryland “move-over” law went into effect three years ago. The new law require motorists, when approaching an emergency vehicle with lights activated, to “make a lane change” to a travel lane “not adjacent to the emergency vehicle.”
That means if a law enforcement officer has pulled a driver over on the shoulder of Route 235, an approaching motorist should move over to the left lane away from the shoulder. If traffic flow prevents the motorist from making a safe lane change, the law calls for the driver instead to reduce speed to a reasonable level.
The idea behind the law is safety: Give vulnerable law officers on the side of the road a wide berth to conduct their duty. Police work is dangerous work, and pulling over drivers on heavily travelled roadways adds another element of risk. Imagine standing on the side of the road, assisting a stranded motorist, or asking for the license and registration of a motorist you’ve just pulled over and whose reactions can be unpredictable.
Much of the time in these circumstances a police officer has his or her back to passing traffic, hoping that drivers are paying full time and attention to the road ahead.
This law also applies to other emergency vehicles carrying fire and rescue crews. When the lights on any of these vehicles are flashing, the law calls on motorists to slow and if possible move over. The lights alone are a warning, not an actual protection from a several-ton vehicle rolling down the asphalt.
A primary violation of the move-over law could result in a fine of $110 and one point. If the violation results in a traffic accident, the fine could be $150 and three points. If the accident results in death or serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points.
Drivers are taught early on to scan the roadway ahead for hazards. Many of us may be used to zipping by the emergency lights on the side of the road, but we should treat them as a hazard and avoid them. Move over if you can; slow down if you can’t.
The move-over law has been in effect for three years now, but this is a good time to emphasize it. We’re in the middle of a holiday week, heading into New Year’s Eve. Fire and rescue volunteers will interrupt their own holidays to respond when someone needs help. Revelers will be out on the highways, and so will police officers in a bid to keep drunk drivers off the highway. They’ll be working to keep everyone else safe. Keep your eyes out to keep them safe as well.