State’s ‘move-over law’ now includes wreckers

Published 12:33 pm Tuesday, February 2, 2010

By Scott Mims

A new state law went into effect Monday requiring motorists to change lanes or slow down when approaching wreckers or any type of emergency vehicle stopped on the roadside.
Alabama drivers were already required to move over for highway patrol cars and ambulances, but now the law includes all vehicles with flashing emergency lights. It also has stiffer penalties.
Rep. Jimmy Martin was a primary sponsor of the bill.
“As far as safety goes, it’s probably one of the best laws passed by the legislature in recent years,” Jemison Chief of Police Shane Fulmer said.
Whether making a traffic stop, responding to a wreck or assisting a stranded motorist, public safety officials find themselves on the roadside quite often — within inches of high-speed traffic.
Fulmer said one officer training video shows patrol cars and officers being struck by moving vehicles. As a safety measure, many departments have changed the way they conduct traffic stops.
“We require all our officers, especially on I-65, to do a passenger side approach,” Fulmer said.
The new law is intended to protect not just officers but all who work on the shoulder of the highway — such as wrecker operators or people who pick up roadside litter.
Reportedly, few people in Chilton County have received warnings or citations for violating the “move-over law,” previously known as the “blue light law.” Tickets may be issued for failure to move over for an emergency vehicle on a four-lane highway. On two-lane roads, or if traffic prevents the possibility of merging, drivers must slow down to 15 mph below the posted limit.
The fine is set at $25 for the first offense, plus court costs. The amount of the fine increases with the number of offenses.
Sheriff Kevin Davis said he thinks the new law has made motorists more aware.
“I think that is something the driving public has done very well with,” he said.
Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell said the place of greatest danger is along the interstate. He said warnings have been issued recently, but at times the law can be difficult to enforce.
“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been covering an accident and watched other accidents occur because people were rubbernecking just to see what happened,” he said.