As a matter of courtesy, most drivers will switch lanes when they see emergency response vehicles on the side of road. In fact, there is a law that requires drivers to change lanes or slow down when approaching any stopped vehicle with flashing lights.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol is asking motorists to help keep other drivers and law enforcement officers safe by following Ohio’s Move Over law.
The Move Over law is intended to keep all emergency responders, highway, construction, maintenance workers, public utility, and tow-truck operators safe from passing traffic. Motorists are required to slow down and, if possible, change lanes to avoid getting too close to vehicles on the shoulder of the road.
According to Ohio State Highway Patrolman, Sgt. Joshua Patrick, “The law protects those people who have to work in hazardous environments like law enforcement, emergency personal, and road and maintenance workers. It requires drivers to slow down and mover over to create a safer area and ensure that somebody else gets to go home to their family that night.”
The law applies to all stationary vehicles with flashing or rotating lights.
“It originally applied only to emergency vehicles and tow trucks, but was expanded to include all vehicles with flashing lights in December 2013 to protect highway and maintenance workers,” Sgt. Patrick explained, “If moving over is not possible due to traffic or weather conditions, or because a second lane does not exist, motorists should slow down and proceed with caution.”
Ohio’s Move-Over law has been in effect since 2004 however, the Ohio State Highway Patrol is making an extra effort to promote the law through educational aspects to help keep their fellow drivers and law enforcement officers safe while on the road.
From 2011-2015, Ohio State Highway Patrol cruisers were involved in 67 crashes that appear be related to the failure to move over. These crashes resulted in deaths of two civilians, 25 injured officers and 35 injured civilians.
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) said that 19 people died in work zone crashes last year, and in the last five years, nearly 600 ODOT vehicles were struck by a passing car — most who failed to move over.
Additionally, the FBI reports that from 2005-2014, ninety-seven law enforcement officers across the US were struck by vehicles and killed while conducting traffic stops, assisting motorists, and directing traffic. Alcohol and/or drugs played a role in 28 percent of move over crashes, and wet roads or those covered in snow or ice accounted for 63 percent. The vast majority of crashes, 79 percent, occurred on interstate, U.S. and state routes. The new law is found is R.C. 4511.213, which says that a driver, upon approaching a stationary public safety vehicle, an emergency vehicle, tow truck, construction, maintenance or public utilities vehicle must either:(1) If there are at least two lanes going in the same direction, change lanes to the lane furthest from the emergency vehicle (if possible with regard to weather, etc.), or(2) If on a two lane highway where it is impossible to change lanes or changing lanes would be unsafe, the driver must “proceed with due caution, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle, and maintain a safe speed for the road, weather, and traffic conditions.”
Troopers wrote over 10,000 citations for violations of the Move Over Law from 2011-2015.
Violation of the law is a minor misdemeanor for a first offense. However, if you have a prior speeding ticket or other traffic violation within the prior year, the offense is considered a more serious fourth degree misdemeanor, which carries up to 30 days in jail. Similarly, if you have two prior speeding tickets or other traffic violations within the previous year, the offense is an even more serious third degree misdemeanor, carrying up to 60 days in jail.
The law also provides that if you are found guilty of failure to move over, fines are doubled. In other words, for a first offense where the usual max for a minor misdemeanor is $150, the fine would be $300. For a second offense, where the usual max for a fourth degree misdemeanor is $250, the fine would be $500. For a third offense, where the usual max for a third degree misdemeanor is $500, the doubled fine would be $1000.