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.
NYS VTL 1144-a (a) should not be confused with VTL 1144 (a) – Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, which drivers can read more about here.
What Are the Penalties for NY’s Move Over Law?
Fines: A conviction for violating VTL 1144-a (a), New York’s Move Over Law, can result in a fine of up to $150 for a first offense. A second offense within 18 months of the first means a fine of up to $300. A third offense within 18 months means a fine of up to $450.
Points: New York’s Move Over Law is a 2-point offense.
Surcharges: Like most moving violations in NY, drivers are obligated to pay a state surcharge of $88 or $93 upon conviction for New York’s Move Over Law.
Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA) fee: Receiving 6 points within 18 months requires drivers to pay an additional fine called the Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA). This is separate from the fine and is paid directly to the DMV. A DRA costs $300 for the first six points. Each additional point adds another $75.
Auto insurance increase: NY’s Move Over Law is a moving violation and can have an impact on one’s insurance premiums. Studies have shown that a conviction for a moving violation can result in a hike in rates of up to 20%, sometimes more.
What is New York’s Move Over Law – VTL 1144-a (a)?
Every state in the nation (except D.C.) has a variation of the Move Over Law. In NY, the offense is formally called “failing to move over for emergency vehicles and hazard vehicles” and is codified in VTL 1144-a (a).
What New York drivers really need to know is the law applies if he/she is in an adjacent lane as well. Failing to move over, even from an adjacent lane could result in a violation of VTL 1144-a (a). New York State Police enforce the law “vigorously” and issue hundreds of tickets each year. 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)
Common Defenses to VTL 1144-a (a), The Move Over Law
There are a couple of solid defenses that a skilled attorney can use to help a driver 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, a driver’s 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.
Remember, the wording of the unsafe lane change law (VTL 1128) reveals that the burden is on 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 a driver 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 the driver to move over, but he/she simply did not have enough time to do so, this can be raised as a defense against a move over law ticket. This again requires an attorney to cite and explain NY VTL 1128.
Second, if moving over would have forced the driver to cross over a double yellow line, then he/she cannot have been expected to do so and the ticket will not stand. After all, NY VTL 1110 requires drivers 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 one’s strongest arguments 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 a NY driver this is important. According to this case, those who fail to obey the Move Over Law can be found negligent. After all, failing to adhere to a traffic law could be grounds for the breach of a duty owed to other drivers. Presuming the driver caused damage or an injury to another person, he/she very well—like the driver in Despian—might be negligent.
What does this mean for most NY drivers? Be careful! For those who get a ticket for violating the VTL 1144, it is absolutely vital to: 1) provide concrete evidence of how one, 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 to move over.
Despian is a clarion call for all NY drivers. It not only warns that violating the Move Over law can be enough to keep a negligence lawsuit alive, but also that traffic ticket violations can be used against in a different legal arena entirely: civil negligence cases.
NY Move Over Law Tickets and Out-of-State Drivers
Every state has its own variation of the Move Over Law. Out-of-state drivers who fail to move over while in NY will have to face the penalties of NY’s law (not those of their home state). It also important that drivers realize that just because the ticket occurred out of state doesn’t mean it won’t affect them—most states share information about traffic ticket convictions. That means a conviction is very likely to appear on one’s driving record regardless of where the ticket was issued. Remember: NY’s Move Over Law is a moving violation, so it can have a noticeable impact one’s out-of-state auto insurance as well. Read more
Does the Move Over Law apply just to police?
No. The statute covers any authorized emergency vehicle with one or more blue lights or a combination or red, blue, or white lights, as well as maintenance vehicles with amber lights.
What vehicles do you have to move over for under VTL 1144-a(a)?
Drivers must do their best to slow down or move over for any emergency or maintenance vehicle. This includes:
- Law enforcement vehicles
- Fire department vehicles
- Tow trucks or H.E.L.P. vehicles
- Garbage trucks
- Construction or other roadway work crews
Do I have to move over if the vehicle does not have its emergency lights on?
While the statute states that a vehicle must be “displaying” its lights, it is a good habit to safely slow down and consider moving over any time there is a vehicle—even a non-emergency vehicle—on the side of the road.
Is the Move Over Law the same as failing to yield to emergency vehicle?
No. Failing to yield to an emergency vehicle (VTL 1144-a) is different. This applies when drivers do not give the right of way to a police, ambulance, or fire department vehicle that is approaching with its lights and/or siren on. The fine for this offense is higher ($275) and carries more points (3). The Move Over Law is a subdivision of statute 1144-a with its own distinct parameters and penalties.