August 3, 2021 – As we head into August and what may be the busiest month in years on our nation’s roadways, AAA, first responders and traffic safety advocates are working together to raise awareness around a little known law intended to protect those responding to emergencies along the roadside. In the past month, there have been at least four deaths nationwide – two tow drivers, including one who worked for AAA, a firefighter and a disabled motorist changing a flat - all working along the roadside when they were struck and killed by motorists.
“Even though there is a ‘Move Over’ law in all 50 states, very few people are aware of it, understand it or abide by it and the consequences have been tragic,” says Kara Hitchens, AAA spokesperson. “This is not just about avoiding a costly ticket. It’s about saving lives by changing behavior so drivers simply move over when anyone is either working or disabled on the side of the road.”
For this reason, AAA and its traffic safety partners will be aggressively increasing public education efforts through a variety of communication channels in the coming weeks and months.
Start with an Explanation:
"Move Over" laws exist in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Although they differ slightly, generally speaking, most state laws require drivers on any roadway of two lanes or more in one direction to slow down and move over a lane if possible whenever there is an emergency vehicle with flashing lights such as a police, fire, construction or tow vehicle, working along the roadside. It is intended to ensure that all motorists give emergency responders, tow drivers and those working along the roadside adequate room to safely do their jobs with decreased risk of injury or death.
“We can’t stress enough how important it is that drivers move over, slow down and change lanes when they see any first responders, including AAA, working in and around traffic,” Hitchens said. “By doing so you are also potentially saving someone’s life.”
AAA and other traffic safety advocates have been instrumental in the passage of laws to better protect tow truck drivers, other first responders and everyone on our roadways. Sadly, many drivers still routinely ignore or don’t know about "Move Over" laws, failing to protect roadside workers by creating potentially deadly situations.
“It is not unusual for there to be just a few feet - or less - between our tow drivers assisting a member on the roadside and vehicles flying by high rates of speed,” Hitchens adds. “There is no reason they should have to risk their own lives to help others. Slowing down and moving over is not just the law. It’s the right thing to do.
West Virginia’s "Move Over" Law
West Virginia’s Move Over law (17C-14-9a) states in part: The driver of any vehicle approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, when the authorized emergency vehicle is giving a signal by displaying alternately flashing red, red and white, blue, or red and blue lights or amber or yellow warning lights, shall: Proceed with due caution, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change not adjacent to that of the authorized emergency vehicle, if possible with regard to safety and traffic conditions, if on a highway having at least four lanes with not less than two lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle and reduce speed to a safe level for road conditions.
The first Move Over law took effect in 1996 in South Carolina. Hawaii was the last state to enact a similar law. The District of Columbia enacted one in 2019.
The West Virginia State Highway Patrol recently joined forces with members of the Six-State Trooper Project enforcing and raising awareness about the Move Over law from July 18 through July 24. The high-visibility campaign included the Indiana State Police, Kentucky State Police, Michigan State Police, Pennsylvania State Police, West Virginia State Police, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
During the initiative, West Virginia troopers issued 41 Move Over citations and educated motorists about the state’s Move Over law. The entire initiative issued over 1,000 Move Over citations across the six partnering states.
AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to more than 62 million members nationwide and nearly two hundred thousand members in West Virginia. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. AAA is a non-stock, membership corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can map a route, access a COVID travel restriction map, find local gas prices and electric vehicle charging stations, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information on joining or renewing a Membership, visit www.AAA.com.