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.
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.
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.