On a recent drive to the east coast, one of our employees noticed the shocking lack of people moving over a lane when approaching an emergency or other public service on the shoulder of the road with its hazard lights flashing.
Most motorists know that they should move over one lane, if they're able to do it safely, when they see a Florida Highway Patrol or other law enforcement vehicle along the road's shoulder. But it seems far too many people don't realize the law also applies to fire and rescue vehicles, tow trucks, sanitation and maintenance vehicles and Road Rangers.
The Move Over Law was established in 2002 and was amended to add utility and sanitation vehicles in 2014. Florida Statute 316.126 states that if you're on a multi-lane road, you are required to move over one lane away from the shoulder on which there is an emergency vehicle. The caveat is you need to make sure you can do it safely without impeding the flow of traffic in your intended lane. If you cannot move over in a safe manner, you are required by law to slow to 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limits.
Drivers who are already in the farthest lane away from the emergency vehicle should do their best to allow the merging cars into their lane.
Many Florida drivers are also unaware that the law applies to all roads, not just interstate highways or turnpikes.
Car crash trial attorney Scot D. Goldberg of Goldberg Noone Abraham in Fort Myers points out the severe danger in working alongside a roadway where cars are just feet away and travelling at a high rate of speed. “Police officers, road construction workers, first responders, tow truck operators and sanitation workers are doing some of the most dangerous jobs in the world, and we need to be responsible enough to do the best we can to ensure their safety,” he says.
There were 182 crashes and more than 20,000 tickets written in 2019 for not moving over for an emergency vehicle. Data shows that drivers between the ages of 20 to 54 were involved in the greatest number of move over crashes. The infraction may result in a fine of up to $500.00, and the assessment of up to 3 points against your drivers license. You may also experience an increase in your auto insurance premiums after a move over violation.
As hard as it may be to believe, many law enforcement vehicles with their emergency lights flashing are struck from behind or side-swiped while stopped on the roadside either writing a traffic citation or assisting a motorist. Attorney Goldberg adds that impaired or distracted drivers can also add a large safety risk for any official vehicle parked on the road's shoulder. “A drunk driver often cannot discern between the actual lane of travel from the shoulder where a cop may be parked, even when they have their emergency lights on – this is a recipe for disaster, especially if the officer may be standing outside his or her cruiser.”
Lehigh resident James Branham is the Executive Director of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Foundation, Inc., a local non-profit group of volunteers dedicated to keeping everyone on the road safe, specifically law enforcement and other traffic crash scene first responders, and educating people on the critical importance of the Move Over Law. S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for Special Highway Immediate Emergency Location Defense.
“Our teams provide advanced warning and blocking in the case of an accident to give awareness to drivers that there is an incident up ahead so they have time to move over and slow down, and give our first responders a safer working environment,” Branham says.
The Goldberg Noone Abraham Law Firm represents people who have suffered a serious injury caused by a careless, reckless, or negligent person. We tirelessly advocate for traffic safety and for following all traffic laws and rules of the road.
The Move Over Law was enacted for a specific reason, but it will only be effective if every driver on the road understands it, and acts responsibly to ensure the safety of first responders, tow truck drivers, and other emergency personnel who are on scene. Please obey the Move Over Law and help reduce the increasing number of injuries and fatalities that can happen in the blink of an eye.
For clear answers to any of your legal questions, we invite you to call an attorney at Goldberg Noone Abraham Law Firm at 239-461-5508, or fill out this form and we'll contact you immediately.
To read the Move Over Law in its entirety, click this link: