Maryland motorists are being reminded by overhead traffic alert displays of Maryland's "Move Over" law. The law requires motorists traveling in the lane next to an emergency vehicle to move over one lane to make it safer for the responders. The law is also designed to make drivers more aware of the dangers confronting those who are stopped on the shoulder or in a travel lane due to an emergency.
The problem with the law is that it's not understood and, thus, not obeyed in many instances. Drivers see the signs advising of the "new law" but don't know when they need to move, particularly during rush hour when no one else seems to be moving. Having seen the new message, drivers are now beginning to take note of a law that's existed since 2010; yet, they're wondering: "Is that vehicle an emergency vehicle?" "Does it matter whether their flashing lights are on or off?"
Here's the basics of the "Move Over" law in the amended form that became effective October 1, 2013:
Emergency Vehicle Defined:
Under Maryland Vehicle Law, emergency vehicles are defined as:
-Vehicles of federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies;
-Vehicles of volunteer fire companies, rescue squads, fire departments, the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, and the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute;
-State vehicles used in response to oil or hazardous materials spills;
-State vehicles designated for emergency use by the Commissioner of Correction;
-Special vehicles funded or provided by federal, state, or local government and used for emergency or rescue purposes in Maryland.
When You Must Change Lanes:
Motorists approaching a stopped emergency vehicle that has flashing lights illuminated must move to a non-adjacent lane when it is practicable to do so, unless otherwise instructed by signage or a police officer not to do so. Motorists not able to make a lane change must slow to a "reasonable and prudent" speed that is safe under existing weather, road, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions.
Criminal Penalties for a Violation:
Violation of the "Move Over" law is a primary offense with a fine of $110 and one point assessed by the MVA. Like the new cell phone law, a driver may be pulled over exclusively due to the violation. If the violation contributes to a traffic accident, the fine is $150 and three points assessed by the MVA. If the violation contributes to a traffic crash resulting in death or serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points assessed by the MVA.
Potential Civil Penalties for a Violation:
Although not part of the motor vehicle law, motorists should know that in Maryland, the violation of a traffic law gives rise to an inference of negligence in personal injury cases. Serious personal injury and deaths occur frequently as a result of vehicles striking disabled and stopped vehicles or motorists who are outside of their vehicles because of emergency circumstances.
The attorneys at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz were successful at obtaining a $1.9 million jury verdict in Anne Arundel County for a truck driver who was standing next to his stalled vehicle who was struck by a cement truck driver who inadvertently crossed slightly onto the shoulder.
No amount of money will replace a life or one's good health. Please remember to drive safely and obey Maryland's traffic laws. Innocent lives are at stake!
Baltimore, Maryland-based Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz has a diverse legal practice that includes plaintiff personal injury, negligence and auto accident. Call us at 410-234-0100 or email us for a free consultation and let us help you.