On January 1, 2011, New York’s “move over” law went into effect and it took just a few days before my first client called us after being issued a mover over traffic ticket.
The move over law requires motorists on multi-lane highways to slow down and “move over” (when safe to do so) giving safe clearance to approaching stopped emergency vehicles with red flashing lights. If you do not slow down and change lanes when approaching such vehicle, you can be issued a moving violation which carries 3 points and up to a $150 fine. On single lane roads, motorists must slow down and use caution.
More than 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed since 1999 after being struck by vehicles along America’s highways, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. To lower that deadly toll, almost every state has enacted a “move over” law.
The New York “move over” law was named for Onondaga County Sheriff Deputy Glenn Searles and State Trooper Robert Ambrose, who both lost their lives responding to roadside emergencies. Ambrose and a stopped motorist were tragically killed 9 years ago when his police cruiser was rear-ended by an intoxicated driver in a SUV on the side of the New York Thruway in Yonkers. Searles was struck and killed in 2003 by a mini van.
Just this Monday, a state trooper making an emergency stop on the thruway in New Paltz, was injured when a passing vehicle suffered a blown-out tire and struck the officer. The officer is expected to recover but this incident highlights how important it is for motorists to use caution, slow down and move away from cars stopped on a shoulder.
Update: Some police officers are using this new law to trap motorists. Specifically, they park a police car on the side of the road with lights on (and sometimes without) and wait for motorists to fail to move over. Despite there being no emergency, motorists are then pulled over and issued a “move over” ticket, a 3-point violation.
This law was specifically enacted to protect law enforcement officers who have been killed or injured while responding to roadside emergencies. It is therefore disconcerting that some police officers would create fake emergencies to ensnare motorists.
Because this is a new law, this particular trap has been very effective catching many motorists in “violation” of the law. If you are such a victim, we recommend pleading not guilty and fighting your move over ticket.
Below is the text for the move over law.
§ 1144-a. Operation of vehicles when approaching a parked, stopped or standing authorized emergency vehicle.
Every operator of a motor vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with an authorized emergency vehicle which is parked, stopped or standing on the shoulder or any portion of such highway and such authorized emergency vehicle is displaying one or more red or combination red and white lights pursuant to the provisions of paragraph two of subdivision forty-one of section three hundred seventy-five of this chapter. For operators of motor vehicles on parkways or controlled access highways, such due care shall include, but not be limited to, moving from a lane which contains or is immediately adjacent to the shoulder where such authorized emergency vehicle displaying one or more red or combination red and white lights pursuant to the provisions of paragraph two of subdivision forty-one of section three hundred seventy-five of this chapter is parked, stopped or standing to another lane, provided that such movement otherwise complies with the requirements of this chapter including, but not limited to, the provisions of sections eleven hundred ten of this title and eleven hundred twenty-eight of this title.
Note: The Move Over Law was amended effective January 1, 2012. To read about the expanded law, read New York Move Over Law Amended.