Move Over Law in NY | VTL 1144-a

On November 1, 2016, the New York Move Over Law was expanded. It now requires drivers to slow down and move over for police and emergency vehicles (including ambulance workers and firefighters), hazard vehicles like tow trucks that display amber lights, roadway construction crews, roadway maintenance crews, and, most recently, sanitation vehicles. For the latter, the law now specifies that drivers must provide sanitation workers with a buffer of about 50 feet. 

Have a question about your Move Over Law ticket? Call 888-883-5529 to speak to an attorney now or post a comment at the bottom of this page and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Background Information

The offense is called “failing to move over for emergency vehicles and hazard vehicles” and is codified in VTL 1144-a.

What New York drivers really need to know is if you are in an adjacent lane, you too must move over. Failing to do this, even from an adjacent lane could result in a violation of VTL 1144-a. New York State Police enforce the law “vigorously” and issue hundreds of tickets each year.

The New York Move Over Law (VTL 1144-a) is considered a moving violation that is punishable by 3 points on your license and a fine of up to $275. Often (but not always), a driver who is stopped and ticketed for this will also be hit with other tickets such as:

  • Failure to Yield the Right of Way (3 Points)
  • Improper Passing (3 Points)
  • Unsafe Lane Change (3 Points)
  • Reckless Driving (5 Points)
  • Speeding (3-11 points depending on the speed)

Remember, receiving 6 points within 18 months will require you to pay an additional fine called a “Driver Responsibility Assessment” and racking up 11 points within 18 months will result in the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspending your license.

CLICK HERE - Official Text of New York's Move-Over Law

Official Text of the Move-Over Law

New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) 1144-a.

The driver of every vehicle shall, consistent with the requirements of subdivision (a) of this section, drive at an appropriate reduced speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hill crest, when approaching and passing by an emergency situation involving any authorized emergency vehicle which is parked, stopped or standing on a highway and which is displaying one or more red or combination red, white, and/or blue lights pursuant to the provisions of paragraph two and subparagraph b of paragraph four of subdivision forty-one of section three hundred seventy-five of this chapter, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, and when any special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians, sanitation workers, or other traffic by reason of weather or highway conditions, including, but not limited to a highway construction or maintenance work area.


Common Defenses to VTL 1144-a, The Move Over Law

There are a couple solid defenses that a skilled attorney can use to help you get out of a move over law ticket.

First, NY law prohibits a driver from moving over or changing lanes unless he or she first finds it safe to do so. Consequently, your first line of defense against a move over law ticket is to cite NY VTL 1128, which expresses this idea, and to explain how and why moving over would have been unsafe for you to do.

Remember, the wording of the lane change law (NY VTL 1128) reveals that the burden is on you as the driver to determine whether it would be safe to change lanes or not. In other words, this is not an objective standard that can be evaluated by the officer looking to what an objectively reasonable and prudent person would have done. This subjectivity gives you the upper hand and makes it harder for a prosecutor to say it would have been reasonable to move over.

Additionally, if it would have been safe for you to move over, but you simply did not have enough time to do so, then you can raise that as a defense against a move over law ticket. This too requires your lawyer to cite and explain NY VTL 1128.

Second, if moving over would have forced you to cross over a double yellow line, then you cannot have been expected to do so and your ticket will not stand. After all, NY VTL 1110 requires you to obey traffic control devices. These include the laws pertaining to road markings, signs, and road lines.

Ultimately, these two statutes, NY VTL 1128 and NY VTL 1110, can be your strongest arguments to use against a NY move over law ticket.

Case Law Analysis

In the 2013 case Despian v. Garcia, the Supreme Court of New York heard a case involving a Honda minivan and two police cars that were involved in a collision. The driver of the Honda minivan struck one of the patrol cars, which caused the patrol car to spin out of control and collide with a nearby unmarked police vehicle.

Although the court was mostly dealing with a civil case of negligence, the court in dicta brought forth an interesting piece of information concerning the NY Move Over Law.

Toward the end of the opinion, and after quoting the Move Over Law in full, the court explained that the driver “has not submitted any evidence that he took any of the actions required by section 1144, when he admittedly heard the siren and saw the lights of the approaching emergency vehicle.” Despian v. Garcia, 2013 NY Slip Op 30520 – NY: Supreme Court 2013.

Afterward, the court ruled that the driver’s failure to bring forth this evidence showed that he could have been negligent in his actions.

For you as a NY driver this is important. According to this case, if you fail to obey the Move Over Law, a court can find you negligent. After all, failing to adhere to a traffic law could be grounds for the breach of a duty that you owed to other drivers. Presuming you caused damage or an injury to another person, you very well—like the driver in Despian—might be negligent.

What does this mean for you? Be careful! If you get a ticket for violating the VTL 1144, it is absolutely vital for you to: 1) provide concrete evidence of how you, in actuality, complied with the statute (i.e. you did move over at the right time) or 2) provide a good defense for why it would have been dangerous or even unlawful for you to move over.

Despian is a clarion call for all NY drivers. It not only warns us that our violation of the Move Over law can be enough to keep a negligence lawsuit against alive, but also that traffic ticket violations can be used against us in a different legal arena entirely: civil negligence cases.

Who Should You Contact?

If you recently received a New York traffic ticket, contact an attorney right away. The attorneys of the Rosenblum Law Firm have years of experience fighting traffic tickets, negotiating with prosecutors, and getting the results you are looking for. E-mail or call today at 888-883-5529.

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  • Peter
    October 25, 2017

    I got a 1144-AA ticket on 10/22/2017 on the portion of NY17 under jurisdiction of Owego Town Court (Tioga County). Literally one minute prior to that ticket, I was stopped for a speeding ticket, after which I rejoined the traffic from the shoulder a quarter mile upstream. I was still in the rightmost lane, when I noticed the state trooper car with lights flashing and the trooper standing by the stopped car talking to the driver. I wanted to move to the left lane but there was a much faster car in it close behind, so I felt it was unsafe to perform the maneuver and stayed in my lane, then slowed down as much as I could while passing the parked cars. A minute later, I was stopped. The trouper told me he had not seen me but he could ‘feel’ me passing behind. Do I have any chance contesting this ticket?

    • RLF Attorneys
      October 30, 2017

      While you do have a ‘chance’ of obtaining a dismissal in this case, many courts do not allow for plea bargaining of move-over tickets.

  • Gus
    October 23, 2017

    Hi, I got a VTL 1144-a ticket. There was a police emergency car with flashing lights on attending something else close to a Burger king entrance. Initially I was going to the Burger King through that entrance, but I realized the police car was blocking it so I decided to use a further entrance ahead. For that I drove around the stopped police car passing next to it while looking to the traffic on the other side which was really busy. Suddenly I hear a noise and realize that the police officer had opened his door because he had not seen me and my car does some small damage on his door. He was very upset but in my head I know it was his fault for not seeing me, it even scratch only the back part of the side of my car as I had almost already driven past him. The officer’s supervisor didn’t seem to want to charge me with anything, just run as an accident, but in the end the first officer gave a “move over” ticket. I understand that by law I should have give more space, but can I claim that the only reason I didn’t do that was because I was concerned with the safety regarding the traffic on the other side? Or should I forget it and simply plea guilty and pay the fine?

    • RLF Attorneys
      October 23, 2017

      Gus – Move over violations are complicated cases because they are a) highly fact sensitive, and b) unlikely to receive a plea offer in many jurisdictions. Whether you choose to fight this will often depend on the location of the incident, your driving history, and where you are licensed to drive. If you would like to discuss these points with us, you may reach us at 888-883-5529.

  • Wei-Ting Hung
    September 17, 2017

    I got a traffic ticket for failure to move over emergency vehicle.
    It was early morning around 7-8am and I drove my friend to Albany International Airport through Albany shaker road. When I made a turn and tried to leave airport, there was a parked police and the light was on, no siren. I did see the light but didn’t realize that I need to move over and yield the lane.
    I am an international student, having driven in NY for a year. I don’t want my insurance to increase. What can I do to avoid getting points?

    • RLF Attorneys
      September 18, 2017

      Wei-Ting — Whether this violation will impact your rates will depend on your prior driving record, along with your insurance company’s policy. You may contest these violations in court. Please note, however, that many jurisdictions have a policy against offering any form of plea reduction for this violation.

  • Rajakrishnan
    September 4, 2017

    I got a notice from traffic police for move over.
    I was driving from niagara to New Jersey.
    On the way a polic stopped me for the move over. The police car was in emergency lane and I am was in the right lane. I am not aware of the rule so I haven’t moved to left lane, I was in the right lane itself but in normal speed. What can I do to avoid getting points.

    • RLF Attorneys
      September 5, 2017

      In order to properly assist you, please advise us of the court that is handling your case. Generally speaking, these violations are either 2 or 3 points, depending on the offense charged.

  • yaakov
    August 28, 2017

    Simply the cop had someone else pulled over at the beginning of an exit ramp. And then subsequently pulled me over saying that he thought i would hit him. Is there any defense being that he was on the exit ramp?

    • RLF Attorneys
      August 29, 2017

      Yaakov – It appears that you are currently being charged with a ‘move over’ violation. Where did this incident occur – as the location of the ticket has significant procedural implications.

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