NY VTL 1144-A; The Move Over Law
As of November 2016, New York’s “Move Over Law” (VTL 1144-A (a)) has required drivers of motor vehicles to slow down and move over to allow room for a variety of emergency and hazard response vehicles. While the law has been in place for over 2 years, many New Yorkers are not aware of the full requirements of the regulation or the consequences for failing to abide by the law.
What is the Move Over Law?
The full text of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Code 1144-A (a) may seem wordy and complex, but the premise is actually fairly simple:
Operation of vehicles when approaching a parked, stopped or standing authorized emergency vehicle or hazard vehicle. (a) 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 a highway and such authorized emergency vehicle is displaying … one or more red, blue or white or any combination of red and white lights or blue or combination blue and red or combination blue, red and white lights … 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 vehicle … is parked, stopped or standing to another lane … (NY Veh & Traf L § 1144-A (2015))
The law requires that any driver approaching a stopped emergency vehicle (§ 1144-A (b) also outlines the same regulation regarding vehicles with yellow or yellow and white lights, such as tow trucks) must move over into a lane away from the emergency vehicle. However, the law also states that the movement must comply with other vehicle and traffic laws, specifically the “rules of the road” as defined in NY VTL 1127, Title VII, Article 25. For instance, a driver in compliance with 1144-A may not:
- drive on the wrong side of the road or cross double yellow lines, unless the movement is absolutely necessary in compliance with 1144-A and the driver yields to motorists traveling the proper direction;
- run a red light or stop sign;
- proceed without properly yielding the right of way to other motorists or pedestrians;
- increase or decrease speed to an unlawful or unsafe level;
- create a potentially unsafe obstruction or hazard on or near the motorway.
While New York State’s Move Over Law may seem dense and unnecessary, it does a great deal to protect the equipment and lives of emergency responders (police officers, ambulance workers, firefighters, tow truck operators, etc.), as well as your own vehicle and its occupants from a harmful, costly, or even fatal collision. If you see flashing lights of any color while driving, slow down, assess the situation and determine the safest way to proceed (switching lanes, slowing further, yielding to authorized emergency and hazard responders, etc.). Don’t recklessly cut into another lane, slam on your brakes, or continue full speed in the lane adjacent to the stopped vehicle.
What are the Consequences of Violating the Move Over Law?
Violating NY VTL 1144-A, generally referred to by police officers and in court as “failure to move over for emergency and hazard vehicles,” is considered a moving infraction, landing offenders with two points on their licenses and fines of up to $150. In many cases, drivers ticketed for failing to move over face additional tickets more specific to their failure to comply. Some common tickets received alongside a violation of the Move Over Law include:
- reckless driving
- improper passing and/or unsafe lane change
- failure to yield the right of way
Each of these infractions can add an additional 2 to 11 points to an offender’s license. A driver who receives 6 or more points on their license within 18 months incurs a Driver Responsibility Assessment fee.
Specifically, if you receive 6 points on your driver record for violations committed during a period of 18 months, the assessment is $300. This amount can be paid over 3 years in 3 equal installments, or all at once. If you receive more than 6 points on your driver record during a period of 18 months, the annual assessment is $25 for each point in addition to the original six points for a total of $75. (New York Department of Motor Vehicles)
Additional charges not only carry points, but they also add to the fines and fees a driver must pay to continue driving. Depending on the severity of a specific incident, a driver found in violation of 1144-A may even face jail time.
At times, slowing down and moving over as you approach an authorized emergency or hazard vehicle stopped on a motorway may seem unnecessary, but there’s more at stake than the status of your license and your wallet’s happiness. The presence of a stopped emergency or hazard vehicle usually means that something is wrong, and continuing at full speed or not allowing space for emergency responders to move and operate not only jeopardizes their safety and the safety of other pedestrians and motorists, but it also creates risks for you and the other occupants of your vehicle. The coast may look clear, but if you see flashing emergency or hazard lights, slow down, assess the situation, and determine the safest, lawful course of action to proceed.
Defending Against a Ticket for Failure to Move Over
If you’re facing a ticket for failing to move over, a knowledgeable and reliable attorney can often help you build a solid defense in court. For instance, an experienced attorney can help you explain to a judge why you believed moving over for a stopped emergency or hazard vehicle was unsafe to you or to others. If the situation allowed for a safe move that you failed to make, your attorney may defend your case by arguing that you did not have enough time to safely assess and execute the move, or that moving would have forced you to commit some other infraction defined by the state’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws.
While these defenses may sound simple enough for you to use alone in court, it’s always best to consult with an attorney. The right attorney possesses a great understanding of New York traffic laws and can help you build a solid defense based on the legal framework. No attorney can guarantee your success in beating a ticket, but going to court with a lawyer will generally help to lessen the penalties you face, and provide you with a better understanding of the courts’ rulings.
Since 1991, the traffic lawyers at Weiss & Associates, PC, have helped over 100,000 motorists in court. Our lawyers specialize in traffic law across New York State, and we make your traffic issue as easy as possible. For more information about New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1144-A, or to discuss your defense options, contact us today for a free consultation!