Most drivers know to pull over when an ambulance or police car is approaching with lights flashing and sirens blaring. But what exactly does the law require of drivers when emergency vehicles need to get through traffic or are already on-location at a roadside emergency? "Move-over" laws generally specify what motorists must do when approaching or being approached by first responders dealing with an emergency. Here are some of the basics requirements of these laws and common penalties for drivers who fail to yield to an emergency vehicle.
Most states have move-over laws that tell drivers what procedures to follow when driving in the vicinity of first responders (and sometimes highway workers) who are attending to an emergency or some other official business. Normally, these laws cover two scenarios—yielding to first responders who are en-route to an emergency and driving past emergency responders and highway workers who are stopped at the side of the road.
Generally, move-over laws require drivers to pull over when first responders are en-route to an emergency and what their lights and sirens activated. The idea behind this law is, of course, to help emergency workers get to where they need to go as quickly as possible. To achieve this purpose, move-over laws typically require drivers to:
Normally, drivers are responsible for following these rules any time an emergency vehicle approaches with its lights and sirens on.
Most states have move-over laws that require drivers to change lanes or slow down when approaching an emergency vehicle that's parked on or to the side of a roadway with lights flashing. In many states, these requirements apply to law enforcement patrol cars, ambulances, firetrucks, and roadwork and utility service vehicles.
Some states require drivers to change lanes so that no vehicles are traveling in the lane closest to the emergency vehicle. In these states, if it's unsafe to change lanes, the driver must reduce his or her speed and prepare to stop. In other states, drivers aren't required to change lanes but only to slow down when approaching one of these emergency or maintenance vehicles.
Generally, the penalties for a move-over ticket are similar to those for other traffic violations. In most cases, a move-over ticket is an infraction or a misdemeanor. Convicted motorists will have to pay a fine and might end up with demerit points on their driving record.
In some states and in some situations (like where the driver causes an accident), a move-over violation can lead to other penalties such as jail time and license suspension.