Maryland Auto Accident and Traffic Safety Update: Maryland’s Move Over Law Protects Emergency Personnel

If you you’re not doing it by now, you had better start. What are we talking about? Moving over a lane to give police officers, fire fighters and other emergency personnel a little extra margin of safety on Maryland’s highways. As a Baltimore automobile accident attorney, I know the kind of carnage that a motor vehicle can cause to a pedestrian, especially at high speeds. Maryland’s legislators finally took this to heart and passed what is known as the “Move Over” rule.

It’s been a few years since the new rule was proposed, but now that it’s law drivers across the state should be extra careful when coming up on a car, truck or motorcycle accident scene or even a routine traffic stop. The potential for severe injury during a traffic accident is quite high even for those traveling in vehicles.

Even so, serious head, neck and spinal injuries have been know to occur even at low speeds, which makes this new law a boon for our hard-working police and emergency personnel. And not a moment too soon, since over the past decade more than 150 police officers alone have been killed nationwide at roadsides when they were hit by passing vehicles.

The law, which went into effect back on October 1, had not been well broadcast to the driving public, according to some news outlets. For those who don’t know about it, the “Move Over” rule requires drivers to move over by one lane or to slow down whenever passing an emergency vehicle that has its blue or red flashing lights on. Failure to comply could mean a fine of $110 and two points on your driver’s license.

Seeing that the law is new and the public may not be totally familiar with it, police may give drivers only a warning, but rest assured this is serious business where the safety of emergency workers is involved. In fact, the law is written such that if a driver doesn’t move over or slow sufficiently when passing multiple emergency vehicles, the police could legally issue a ticket (with corresponding fine and points) for each of the emergency vehicles passed. In other words: two cruisers, $220 dollars. One cruiser and two ambulances, $330 dollars.

The law itself states that unless otherwise directed, a driver on a road that is sufficiently wide should merge left when there is an emergency vehicle with lights flashing on the right-hand shoulder ahead. If traffic doesn’t provide for a driver to safely merge, then the driver must slow to a “reasonable and prudent” speed, taking into account road and weather conditions.

There are no specifics in the law to indicate what “reasonable and prudent” actually is, however one might interpret that as a speed under the posted limit. Of course, traffic and road conditions are additional factors that could prompt a police officer to issue a citation to a motorist.

Ignoring the rule has its own disadvantages as the MSP has apparently stated that a driver who is speeding in the lane adjacent to a traffic stop could face multiple citations; one for speeding and one for not moving over or slowing down. One extra point to remember: The penalty for a violation that causes a crash is three points and a fine of $150. The fine increases to $750 if the crash results in death or serious injury.

Flashing red or blue lights say ‘move over’,, October 18, 2010

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