This month marks the two-year anniversary of Maryland’s “Move Over” law being expanded to include all service vehicles on state roads.
The Maryland State Police is using this milestone as a reminder on just how important it is for motorists to adhere to these vital motor vehicle safety laws. All 50 States have enacted “Move Over” laws to protect first responders and other emergency workers who are often stopped on busy roads and highways for traffic stops, roadwork or accident scenes.
Maryland’s “Move Over” laws require drivers approaching from the rear of an emergency vehicle using visual signals while stopped on a highway to, if possible, make a lane change into an available lane not immediately adjacent to the emergency vehicle.
This movement should only be done if another lane in the same direction is available and the move can be made safely and without impeding other traffic. If moving to another lane away from the stopped emergency vehicle is not possible, the law requires drivers to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing weather, road, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions.
The intent of the law is to provide an extra barrier of safety for police officers, fire fighters, emergency rescue personnel and service and utility workers working along Maryland roads. It is hoped that drivers will become more aware of police and emergency workers stopped along the road and move away from them or slow down as they pass by the traffic stop or incident scene.
The original law went into effect in 2010. In 2014, the law was expanded to not only include police cars but also tow trucks, fire trucks and medical and rescue trucks as well. On Oct. 1, 2018, the law expanded again to transportation, service and utility vehicles, as well as waste and recycling trucks, with yellow or amber flashing lights or signal devices.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 150 law enforcement officers have been killed since 1997 after being struck by vehicles along America’s highways. In fact, traffic-related incidents, including vehicle crashes, are one of the leading causes of death for law enforcement officers. From 2007 to 2017, 39 percent of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty were lost in traffic-related incidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation said.
Also, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, more than 4,000 people were injured, and 53 people were killed in work zone crashes between 2014 and 2019. In 2019 alone, there were 694 crashes that resulted in injury and seven that resulted in fatalities in Maryland. These are tragedies and many were preventable.
Motorists appear to have received the message, which is appreciated. Since the law expanded in 2014, troopers went from issuing 5,408 citations and 12,179 warnings to 1,673 citations and 5,677 warnings in 2019 for move over violations. Through Sept. 28, 2020, troopers have issued 865 citations and 3,179 warnings for similar violations this year.
For more information on the “Move Over” law, visit www.roads.maryland.gov