‘Move Over’ enforcement campaign on I-95 in Maryland Wednesday

Police in Maryland want drivers to obey the Move Over Law, so they’ll be conducting a special campaign Wednesday to raise awareness of it along Interstate 95, from the Delaware line to the Potomac River.

Maryland state police
Move over or slow down if you see one stopped on a highway. (Robert Thomson – The Washington Post)

States have been approving Move Over Laws since the 1990s to give police and emergency responders a bit more of a safety margin when they’re at work on highways. Maryland’s took effect in 2010. (Virginia’s law took effect in 2002.)

The law is in effect all the time, but drivers should note that the Maryland Transportation Authority police and Maryland State Police will be devoting extra attention to stopping violators during the daylight hours Wednesday.

From time to time, I hear from motorists who are confused about enforcement of the laws, either because they didn’t know they existed or felt they were given a ticket unfairly. The laws vary somewhat from state to state. AAA’s Web site has a state by state review. But since the enforcement campaign is in Maryland, let’s review that law.

Drivers approaching an emergency vehicle using visual signals while stopped on a highway are required to make a lane change, if possible, into an available lane not immediately adjacent to the emergency vehicle. If moving to another lane is unsafe, the driver must slow to a “reasonable and prudent speed,” given the current conditions on the highway.

Maryland law defines emergency vehicles to include those operated by law enforcement agencies, vehicles of rescue squads and fire departments, Maryland emergency medical services, state vehicles responding to oil or hazardous materials spills and ambulances of all types. A modification of the law that takes effect in October will add tow trucks.

A violation is a primary offense. You don’t have to be doing anything else wrong to be stopped for it. The fine is $110 and one point on a driver’s license. If the violation contributes to a traffic crash, the fine is $150 and three points. If the violation contributes to a traffic crash resulting in death or serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points.

You want to watch for flashing lights. That’s the simple part. But the law doesn’t further define what makes it unsafe to change lanes or what speed is prudent. Sgt. Kevin Ayd, a spokesman for the transportation authority police, said drivers should at least get to the speed limit — “the actual speed limit,” he said. Getting under the speed limit, if possible, also is a good choice. Enforcing officers have some discretion in whether to accept an explanation, issue a warning or write a ticket.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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