New York Drivers Getting Trapped by New “Move Over” Law

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New York Move Over Law VTL 1144(a)

A sign reminding drivers of New York’s Move Over Law [VTL 1144(a)] (Source: Flickr)

New York’s “Move Over” law (VTL 1144-a) went into effect on January 1, 2011.  The move over law calls for motorists on multi-lane highways to slow down and “move over” giving safe distance as one approaches stopped emergency vehicles. On single lane roads, drivers must reduce speed and use caution. If they do not slow down and change lanes when approaching the emergency vehicle, they can be issued a moving violation which carries 3 points on their driving record and up to a $150 in fine plus a surcharge.

New Jersey’s “Move Over” law went into effect in 2009 and has essentially the same requirements but carries 2 points and up to a $500 fine (!)

We have received many phone calls from clients that state that the police are using this new law to trap drivers, kind of like a “sting” operation.  In the usual case, a police officer will park his car on the side of the road, turn his emergency lights on, and lie in wait for drivers who fail to slow down and/or move over.  Drivers are then pulled over and slapped with  a “move over” ticket.

It is a common misconception that police or emergency personnel need be in the process of law enforcement (e.g. effecting a traffic stop) or emergency response (e.g. assisting after an auto accident) in order for the driver who fails to move over to be in violation of the law.  However, the NY Move Over law states:

Every  operator  of  a motor vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding  with an  authorized  emergency  vehicle  which  is  parked,  stopped  or  standing  on  the  shoulder  or  any  portion  of  such highway and such  authorized  emergency  vehicle  is  displaying  one  or  more   red   or  combination red and white lights pursuant to the provisions of paragraph.….such  due  care shall include, but not be limited to,  moving from a lane which contains or  is  immediately  adjacent  to  the  shoulder  where such authorized emergency vehicle are parked.

New Jersey’s Move Over Law (39:4-92.2) contains similar language. As such, a driver who observes an emergency vehicle with its lights on and fails to move over is guilty.  The only exception is if it is unsafe for the driver to move over.  For example, if there is heavy traffic in the outside lane, it may be unsafe for the driver to move from the lane adjacent to the emergency vehicle into the outside lane.  This would be a defense to a “Move Over” ticket.

Because this is a new law and many people are unaware of it and because of the common misconception discussed above, “move over” traps have been very effective in catching drivers who are in violation of the law.  If you are ticketed for the “move over” law we recommend that you contact us immediately so we can advise you how to best handle the ticket and potentially avoid the points.

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