As the Memorial Day holiday approaches, Maryland State Police will join forces with law enforcement agencies locally, along with those in Delaware, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., to remind drivers and passengers of the importance of seat belt use, while also highlighting their “move over” laws, according to an MSP press release.
New to the region’s Click it or Ticket campaign this year, which runs from May 20 to June 2, is a reminder of the dangers first responders and roadway workers face while stopped on the roadways. All 50 states have enacted move over laws, but very few Americans know they exist. According to a national poll by Mason Dixon Polling & Research, sponsored by the National Safety Commission, 71% of Americans have not heard of move over laws. So far in 2019, 14 law enforcement officers have been killed nationally in traffic-related crashes.
Maryland’s move over laws require drivers approaching from the rear of an emergency vehicle using visual signals while stopped on a highway to, if possible, make a lane change into an available lane not immediately adjacent to the emergency vehicle. This movement should only be done if another lane in the same direction is available and the move can be made safely and without impeding other traffic. If moving to another lane away from the stopped emergency vehicle is not possible, the law requires drivers to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing weather, road and traffic conditions.
The intent of the law is to provide an extra barrier of safety for police officers, fire fighters and emergency rescue personnel working along Maryland roads. It is hoped that drivers will become more aware of police and emergency workers stopped along the road and move away from them or slow down as they pass by the traffic stop or incident scene.
The original law went into effect in 2010. In 2014, the law was expanded to not only include police cars but also, tow trucks, fire trucks and medical and rescue trucks as well. On Oct. 1, 2018, the law expanded again to transportation, service and utility vehicles, as well as waste and recycling trucks, with yellow or amber flashing lights or signal devices.
Motorists appear to have received the message since the law expanded in 2014: Troopers went from issuing 5,408 citation and 12,179 warnings to 1,349 citations and 5,677 warnings in 2018 for move over violations. Through May 13, troopers had issued 614 citations and 2,100 warnings for similar violations.
Today’s emphasis on Move Over laws coincides with the conclusion of Police Week, which pays tribute to the local, state and federal law enforcement officers who serve and protect us with courage and dedication. Thousands of Americans are alive today thanks to strong state laws, the Click It or Ticket enforcement and paid media effort, and the year-round “Buckle Up America” campaigns. According to the Maryland Highway Safety Office, more than 120 unbelted drivers and passenger are killed each year in the state.
In 2018, Maryland State Police issued 11,243 citations and 8,805 warnings for seat belt violations. Through May 13, troopers have issued 4,611 citations and 3,604 warnings for similar violations in 2019. In 2017, the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 14,955 lives of occupants 5 and older nationally. From 2013–2017, seat belt use is estimated to have saved almost 70,000 lives.
For more information on seat belt laws in Maryland, go to towardzerodeathsmd.com/seat-belts/. Go to www.roads.maryland.gov/pages/release.aspx?newsId=3255 for information on Maryland’s move over laws.