Move-over law gets serious

Published 9:00 pm Thursday, August 13, 2009

The statewide “move-over” law, which requires motorists on multilane highways to merge left when meeting emergency vehicles stopped on the shoulder of the road, has an added measure.

Effective Aug. 1, the law now includes wreckers in its definition of emergency response vehicles.

The Aug. 1 date began a six-month warning and educational period for the new regulations. Once this period concludes, citations for violation of the “move-over” law will carry a fine up to $25 for the first offense and increasing fines for subsequent offenses.

The law was first enacted in 2006 in response to high statistics of officers being struck by vehicles while working roadside.

“It’s a good law,” Chilton County Sheriff Kevin Davis said. “This is another tool for the safety and health of public safety officials.”

Davis added that the law should be observed, and enforced, using common sense. Sometimes it’s unsafe to change lanes because of heavy traffic. The law does make provisions for this situation and requires vehicles that do not move over to slow down by 15 mph. The same holds true for two-lane highways.

“If it’s more dangerous for a vehicle to move over than to slow down, that’s the way it has to be,” Davis said.

The sheriff’s department responds to multiple calls daily on the 26-mile stretch of Interstate 65 that runs through Chilton County.

These calls range from accidents to stranded motorists and reckless drivers.

Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell estimated his department responds to about 100 traffic crashes a month.

While the law addresses only emergency vehicles with lights flashing and not stranded motorists, Stilwell said it’s always best to err on the side of safety when approaching any vehicle or person on the side of the road.

“People should take precaution and just be courteous because we have had incidents where people have been struck while changing a tire on the side of the highway,” he said.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Fund, 154 officers nationwide have been killed after being struck while working roadside this decade.