Drivers may have to 'move over' for vehicles stopped on shoulder

Disasters and AccidentsCrime, Law and JusticeVehiclesJustice SystemBrian E FroshNancy Jacobs

State lawmakers are considering several proposals to require drivers to slow down and move over for emergency and towing vehicles that have pulled to the side of the road. Maryland is one of just three states without a "move over" law, said Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford and Cecil County Republican who is sponsoring one of the measures.

Several other senators have similar proposals, which are largely supported by fire and police unions and the State Highway Administration. Jacobs' bill would require drivers to vacate the lane closest to the shoulder where an emergency vehicle with active lights has stopped. Violators would be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined $75. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the bills Tuesday.

Jacobs' proposal to move over would apply only to roads with two or more lanes of traffic in the same direction as the emergency vehicle is facing. On roads where the posted speed limit is at least 35 mph and there is only one lane of traffic each way, drivers would be required to "slow to a speed that is sufficient to ensure the safety" of police officers and emergency workers on the scene. Maryland already has laws requiring drivers to yield right-of-way to emergency vehicles that are on the move.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Democrat who heads the panel, said he has concerns about how a "move over" law would work in congested areas such as the beltways around Baltimore and Washington. When traffic is already crawling on those roads, he said, moving over can cause further jam-ups. However, he said he agrees with the intent of the proposals and said his concerns could be alleviated by clarifying what drivers need to do when they encounter emergency vehicles in congested situations.

Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, a Baltimore Democrat on the committee, suggested expanding the proposals to include snowplows.

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