North Carolina’s New “Move Over” Laws
In order to make sure they can respond to emergencies quickly, there are a number of traffic laws that first responders don’t have to obey. For example, they are allowed to drive on the wrong side of the road if it’s the only way they can continue to their destination. But these special allowances don’t mean their jobs aren’t incredibly difficult.
Firefighters, police, and paramedics are constantly putting themselves at risk to save the lives of countless others. These are tough jobs that are also often thankless, which is why we should do everything we can to make it easier for them.
Recent Move Over Law Updates
Traffic accidents are one of the top causes of death in first responders, which is why it’s so important to give them ample space to do their work safely, especially when they are responding to a roadside incident. Many states have established “move over” laws to do just that, and North Carolina is no exception.
In fact, North Carolina’s Move Over Laws recently became more strict. This comes in the wake of the death of Officer Jason Quick, who died in the line of duty on December 15th, 2018. Officer quick was responding to a call to investigate an accident along I-95 near Lumberton, NC. While inspecting the scene, Officer Quick was struck by a passing car and later died of his injuries.
As a result, North Carolina Governor, Roy Cooper, signed Senate Bill 29 into law at the end of 2019. Also called the “Officer Jason Quick Act,” Senate Bill 29 establishes a Move Over law in North Carolina that’s stricter than ever.
In North Carolina when an emergency or public service vehicle is stopped within 12 feet of a roadway, drivers are required to:
- Reduce their speed while proceeding with caution,
- Move to a lane that’s further away from the stopped vehicle, if it’s safe to do so, and
- Continue driving slowly until they are past the stopped vehicle and/or accident scene.
Though slowing down and moving over for stopped emergency vehicles has long been a requirement under state law, it’s the penalties that have become more severe. Now, failure to move over will result in the driver being assessed a $250 fine.
Additionally, if a failure to slow down/move over results in a first responder being injured and/or causes $500 or more in property damage, the driver will be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor and face up to 120 days in jail. Finally, if a failure to slow down/move over results in the serious injury or death of a first responder, the driver will be charged with a Class F felony and face 10-41 months in prison. Offenders may also have their license suspended for up to six months, though they will be able to apply for limited driving privileges.
The laws established under Senate Bill 29, which went into effect on December 1st, 2019, also apply to workers in temporary construction zones as well as utility workers whose vehicles are stopped along a road.
Tips for Yielding to Emergency Vehicles
In addition to learning what to do for stopped emergency vehicles, it’s also important to know how to conduct yourself if one approaches you while driving. The number one thing to remember is that emergency vehicles always have the right of way, no matter what. Additionally, keep the following tips in mind the next time you encounter a moving emergency vehicle:
- As soon as you hear a siren, turn down your radio and crack your window to help you determine which direction the vehicle is coming from.
- Once you have a better idea of where the vehicle is coming from, and where it’s headed, begin slowing down and start looking for a place to safely pull over. If there’s not a good place for you to stop, continue driving until you find somewhere safe.
- Do not slam on your brakes suddenly, as this can easily cause another accident.
- Use your blinker or hazards lights and pull over as soon as you can.
- After the vehicle has passed, look around for additional responders before making sure it is safe to pull back on the road.
- Stay at least 500 feet behind the vehicle at all times.
Remember, this move over law is in effect to keep everyone safe. Following the law is your civic duty, and will help protect you as well as the people we depend on to do the most difficult and dangerous jobs. If you’ve been accused of violating a traffic law, the best course of action is to speak to the traffic violation lawyers at Mulligan Attorneys. Contact us today for a consultation, by calling 910-763-1100.