Virginia’s Move Over Laws were recently expanded, and motorists should be aware that the fines and punishments have increased. Specifically, drivers that fail to move aside when law enforcement vehicles are on the shoulder will incur reckless driving charges. Those that do not yield for other types of emergency vehicles will end be charged with traffic violations. Emergency vehicles include:
- Law enforcement vehicles
- Virginia Department of Transportation vehicles
- Fire rescue vehicles
The Importance of Move Over Laws
Every state has a Move Over Law, and the specifics vary. They are designed to safeguard emergency vehicles and personnel, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 71 percent of Americans were not familiar with them. Making emergency or traffic stops on the side of a road or highway is very dangerous, and many have been injured when in these vulnerable situations. This is in addition to the risks of motor vehicles crashing into emergency vehicles.
Virginia’s Move Over Law was created in 2002 and was amended by House Bill 1911 over the summer. It is in effect on highways that have four or more lanes. Motorists that see a stationary emergency vehicle’s flashing lights must proceed cautiously and change lanes. If it is not possible for the driver to change lanes, they are required to slow down.
Fines and Penalties
In the past, violating Virginia’s Move Over Law resulted in fines of $250. Now, first time violators will still be punished with a simple traffic infraction and a $250 fine, but repeat offenders may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, which could result in a fine of $2,500 and jail time. If there is property damage, injury, or death from breaking this law, the offender could lose their license.
Giving the Right of Way
Basically, motorists that see emergency vehicles that are employing visual signals are supposed to give them the right of way. This can be done by:
- Moving to another lane that is not right next to the emergency vehicle
- Slowing down
- Turning on hazard lights
- Pulling over into a safe area
A Public Information Campaign
In July, State Highway Patrols from six states joined together for a Move Over Law advocacy project to increase public awareness, which consisted of state police and troopers from Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. High-visibility enforcement of the Move Over Law was stepped up in the states during the campaign, which lasted for a week. According to the Indiana State Police Sergeant and Public Information Officer, helping people understand how the laws work will help save lives.
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