On Sunday, a driver hit a State Patrol trooper’s car on I-5 in Tacoma as the trooper investigated an earlier crash. Luckily no one was hurt, but northbound lanes were shut down for several hours. This is a good reminder that moving over or slowing down to keep law enforcement officers and emergencies responders free from harm is not only a great safety precaution, but the law.
“Move Over” laws were created by a South Carolina paramedic who was struck and injured at an accident scene in 1994. South Carolina passed the first Move Over law in 1996. In 2000, a series of similar events sparked the US Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration to address the need for improved standards in Emergency Scene Safety and protection for emergency workers. With the further assistance of public interest groups such as the Emergency Responder Safety Institute Move Over laws became standard across the US and Canada.
In our state, Move Over laws passed in 2007. In 2010 legislation added “Emergency Zone” laws. Emergency Zone is defined as the adjacent lanes of the roadway 200 feet (10 car lengths) before and after a stationary emergency vehicle with flashing lights. These vehicles include tow trucks, emergency assistance vehicles, or any police vehicle using emergency lights. Fines double for vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit in an Emergency Zone.
In Washington, If the highway has four or more lanes, two of which traffic is heading the same direction as the approaching vehicle, proceed with caution, and if reasonable and safe, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change or moving away from the lane or shoulder occupied by the stationary responding vehicle. If the highway has less than four lanes, proceed with caution, reduce speed, and if safe and under the rules, yield the right-of-way by passing to the left at a safe distance while also yielding the right-of-way to vehicles traveling in the proper direction. If changing lanes or moving away would be unsafe or unreasonable, proceed with caution and reduce speed.
To find information on the Move Over law in your state, visit Move Over America.