An emergency vehicle speeds down a Florida freeway after a car accident

What is the “Move Over” Law?

An emergency vehicle speeds down a Florida freeway after a car accident

Picture this scene: You’re driving down the highway on your way to work. It’s a typical weekday morning. Everything is going well. You have your music set on high and the weather is nice and sunny. Suddenly, in your rearview mirror, you notice an ambulance blaring its sirens and barreling down your way. What do you do?

Well, common courtesy dictates that you “move over” and make way. But, did you know that it isn’t just common courtesy to do so? In fact, in most, if not all states, it’s actually the law that you vacate your current position to make way for emergency vehicles. There may be subtle differences concerning the particulars in each state. But, the fundamental gist of the move over law remains reliably consistent.

However, you might be surprised to learn just how many different types of vehicles the move over law impacts. For instance, it isn’t just reserved for ambulances, fire trucks, and state troopers. In the state of Florida, for example, the move over law also applies to towing and recovery vehicles as well as municipal automobiles and utility vehicles.

You may not be aware, but this law also applies to stationary vehicles in addition to moving ones. For example, if you’re driving down the road in the right lane and there’s a police car stopped on the immediate side of the road, you’re actually supposed to provide a one-lane buffer to avoid any potential accidents. Failure to do so may result in negligence on your part if an accident actually occurs. (And, even in the absence of an accident, you could earn yourself a ticket!)

Today, we’re going to explore the move over law in fine detail for your benefit. For more information, keep on reading!

The Importance of “Moving Over”

To some, it may seem like we’re being too cautious when it comes to maneuvering around emergency vehicles. That is an understandable viewpoint, but you should know that this law is established upon history. In particular, this law originated as the result of an incident that occurred all the way back in 1994. In this year, James D. Garcia, a South Carolina paramedic, was struck and injured at an accident scene in Lexington, KY. Believe it or not, Garcia was listed as being at fault, which led to a law protecting emergency responders at the scene of an accident.

It took two long years for this law to pass in South Carolina, and it was eventually revised in 2002. As the years wore on, a chain of similar events occurred across the nation. First responders were being struck by moving vehicles at the scenes of an emergency. The US Department of Transportation as well as the Federal Highway Administration recognized this issue of emergency scene safety and recommended changes for the new Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. These changes ultimately addressed the need for improved standards as well as protection for first responders and other emergency workers.

In the United States, these move over laws aim to protect emergency responders who are working at scenes on the side of the road. Thankfully, all fifty states have passed some variant of the move over law, which was brought to national attention because of the increased rates of fatalities occurring in the line of duty. 

Florida and the “Move Over” Law

So, what exactly do you do if you can’t move over? This is an excellent question, and different states have different answers to it. For instance, in the state of Florida, state law requires that motor vehicle operators reduce their speed to 20 mph less than the posted speed limit if they are unable to vacate their lane. In fact, the law actually states that you need to go 20 mph less than the posted speed limit regardless of whether or not you have the ability to vacate your lane. And, don’t forget, in addition to emergency vehicles this also concerns towing and recovery vehicles on top of that. In addition, the law also protects municipal vehicles as well as utility automobiles. 

Believe it or not, Florida’s move over law was originally introduced in 1971, but it wasn’t until 2002 that an addendum was officially annexed to section 316.126. Furthermore, in 2014, motorists were now also required to yield the right-of-way to utility and sanitation automobiles in addition to emergency vehicles.

Giving space to law enforcement, emergency first responders, and other public service vehicles is extremely essential when it comes to their capacity to perform crucial functions. Following this law greatly enhances safety on the open road. Believe it or not, one of the most dangerous places on the planet is on the side of the roadway. Therefore, laws such as this are extremely important when it comes to ensuring the safety of your fellow citizens. 

The “Move Over” Law: Consequences

So, what happens if you don’t obey the move over law? Well, the answer depends on the case as well as the state in which the violation occurs. But, generally speaking, you’re potentially looking at costly fines and fees, as well as points on your driving record.

When it comes to your license, the last thing you want is points on your record. Our current system ascribes a value to various moving and traffic infractions that accumulate on your license. If you acquire enough points, you run the risk of having your license being suspended outright. Sometimes, this revocation may even become permanent. 

And, of course, things only become much worse if you inadvertently strike a pedestrian with your vehicle. You could be looking at potential manslaughter charges. 

Contact Us

Whether you’re an emergency responder who was struck by a car or a state trooper injured in the line of duty, The Ward Law Group is here to represent your case. Our lawyers have two combined decades of experience in serving every type of client you could possibly imagine. In fact, we have recovered millions of dollars in damages over our long-spanning career as our video testimonials attest. When it comes to legal matters, there is no one better whom you can trust to handle your case. Contact our award-winning legal experts today!