PIKESVILLE, MD—The Maryland State Police will be joining law enforcement agencies across the country by participating in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Slow down – Move Over” campaign Friday, May 6 through Sunday, May 8.
Every day, thousands of first responders and road workers take to the streets to help keep Americans safe. And every day, they put their lives at risk to do so. One of the most dangerous parts of each of their jobs is stepping out on the side of the road, whether it is for a traffic stop, to assist a motorist or to investigate a crash.
In an effort to protect first responder and road workers, every state has “Move Over” laws, requiring drivers to slow down and, if safe to do so, move over when approaching stopped emergency vehicles with emergency lights activated. 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. In Maryland, more than 4,000 people were injured and 53 people were killed in work zone crashes between 2014 and 2019.
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.
In Maryland, violating the law is a misdemeanor carrying a $110 fine and one point on the violator’s driving license. If the violation causes a crash, the fine is $150 and three points. If there is a death or serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points. Since 2015, law enforcement in Maryland have written more than 25,000 citations under the law.
The “Move Over” law isn’t new: It was first introduced in South Carolina in 1996. In 2012, Hawaii was the final State to enact such a law. The law protects all first responders, including law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, safety service patrols, and towing vehicles. Unfortunately, law enforcement officers and other first responders are still killed every year by drivers who fail to move over.
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 that year to 886 citations and 4,030 warnings in 2021 for move over violations. Through April 30, 2022, troopers have issued 239 citations and 1,347 warnings for similar violations this year.