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Legal Matters: Why the Move Over Law Doesn’t Always Require You To ‘Move Over’ By Kathleen G. Moriarty, Peters & Moriarty, Attorneys and Counselors of Law

Legal Matters is a regular column intended to address general legal concerns. Since every client walks in the door with a different set of circumstances, you should not rely on this column to provide specific legal advice. If you are in need of specific legal advice, please consult with an attorney; he or she will provide advice that is unique and tailored to your legal needs.  

 

In January 2011, New York passed NY Vehicle and Traffic Law 1144-(a)(b), the Move Over Law, to protect officers stopped on the roadside. The New York State Troopers and other New York police agencies aggressively enforced the law to ensure its public awareness. Despite the law recently reaching its two-year anniversary, many people still misunderstand the law’s requirements. The law requires far more than a simple “move over.”

The law requires that when (1) an emergency or hazard vehicle (2) is stopped on the shoulder or in the road, (3) while operating emergency lights, (4) a motorist (5) must exercise due care to avoid colliding with an authorized emergency vehicle (6) by moving over at least one lane from the stopped vehicle (7) once the driver determines he or she can move over safely, (8) provided moving over doesn’t violate any other NY Vehicle and Traffic Law.

The common misconception, which is the farthest from the truth, is that the driver must move over anytime an emergency or hazard vehicle is stopped on the highway.

For example, if the motorist is on a two-lane road with a double solid yellow line and an officer is stopped on the road’s shoulder, the driver should not move over, but instead should exercise due care by slowing down, to not collide with the emergency vehicle. In contrast, when a motorist is on a two lane road with a dotted yellow line and an officer is stopped on the road’s shoulder, the driver should move over, but only if the driver determines he or she can move over safely.

In other words, the statute was not designed to create a greater danger by moving into oncoming traffic or crossing double solid lines. It was designed to ensure driver’s take due care to protect emergency personnel and construction workers doing their jobs.

This week’s article was written by John C. Nelson, a resident of Ellicottville, N.Y., and an attorney practicing DWI and Criminal Law.

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