Commentary




If you can’t slow down, move over.

Breathing room

“Move Over” laws exist in 47 states, including Colorado, but awareness remains low. In a national poll, 71% of Americans said they have not heard of Move Over laws. Even many of those who have heard of the law are not able to fully describe it.

What are Move Over laws?

Move Over laws simply require motorists to change lanes and/or slow down when approaching an emergency vehicle that is stopped on the side of the road with its lights flashing.

This practice provides a margin of safety for emergency responders. Working at the roadside while traffic passes only inches or feet away is extremely hazardous. Nationwide, an average of two emergency responders are struck each day while doing their jobs. In addition, countless roadworkers and vehicle occupants have been injured or killed by traffic while stranded on the roadside.

Colorado adopted a Move Over law in 2008. The law applies to emergency response vehicles such as police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, tow trucks and Department of Transportation vehicles.

What should I do if I see an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road with lights flashing?

First, slow down so that you can assess the situation. If you’re on a multi-lane highway and it’s safe to do so, you must move over by changing lanes away from the emergency vehicle. Leave at least one vacant lane between you and the emergency vehicle to provide a safe zone.

What if I’m not able to safely change lanes, or if I’m on a two-lane road?

If you are unable to move over, you must slow down to at least 20 mph below the posted speed limit and proceed with caution until you are safely past the emergency vehicle.

How can I avoid becoming involved in a crash when traffic slows?

The single most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others is to pay attention behind the wheel. By scanning the roadway ahead of you and being aware of vehicles around you, you will be able to anticipate problems and react safely.

The more the “Move Over” message is spread, the safer law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs and roadside service responders will be when they are doing their job. And it’s also worth remembering that even though the law refers only to emergency vehicles, there’s no reason you shouldn’t take the same precautions with any other vehicle stopped at the side of the road. Whether a driver is changing a tire, adjusting a trailer load or waiting for help after an accident, the shoulder of a busy road is a dangerous place — so slow down and move over for safety and common courtesy.

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