You’re driving down the highway in New Jersey in the far-right lane. You see a tow truck, or a highway maintenance vehicle pulled off to the right shoulder. It’s displaying flashing lights. What do you do? The state’s Move Over law requires you to make a lane change if you can do so safely. If not, you must slow down and prepare to stop as you move past the emergency vehicle. Failure to comply may cost you between $100 and $500 in fines. More importantly, it may cost an emergency response worker their life. Motor vehicle accidents involving emergency response vehicles and personnel along roadways happen too often. New Jersey’s Move Over law and others like it across the nation are attempts to reduce these dangerous, often fatal, accidents.
What the New Jersey Move Over Law Says
Section 39:4-92.2 of the New Jersey Statutory Code is commonly called the Move Over law. Specifically, it directs motorists on what they must do when approaching authorized emergency vehicles that are stopped on or along a roadway with flashing lights.
Many New Jersey drivers are unaware of the Move Over Law, even though it has been enacted for some time. Others are somewhat aware of it, but may not know specifically which vehicles it covers.
The law pertains to the following authorized emergency vehicles:
- Fire department vehicles
- Police vehicles
- Tow trucks
- Department of Transportation trucks
- Utility worker vehicles
- Highway maintenance vehicles
- Sanitation vehicles
- Other emergency call response vehicles
The law applies when the stationary authorized vehicle is flashing or blinking amber, red, or yellow warning lights. Alternating blue or red lights also qualify, as well as various blinking formations that include at least one of the identified colors.
When you encounter an eligible vehicle, you should move to a non-adjacent lane. But only take this action if it is possible to do so safely and is permissible under the law. When the lane change is dangerous or prohibited, slow down instead. Be ready to stop if required.
Purpose of the Law
Space on the side of the road is limited. This leaves emergency responders vulnerable to passing traffic. Giving the response vehicle extra space with a lane change is the most effective way of evading the vehicle, driver or a passenger. But even slowing down and paying extra attention can help reduce these avoidable accidents.
Many drivers are mindful of the potential dangers of a roadway emergency. They instinctively slow down and proceed cautiously when they see an emergency response vehicle on the side of the road. But it only takes one mistake for tragedy to strike. Moreover, too many drivers fail to use extra caution around highway maintenance or utility worker vehicles. They only move over for traditional emergency responders, such as ambulances, police vehicles, and fire trucks.
Between 2007 and 2009, the state Attorney General’s office reported close to 30,000 roadside work zone car accidents. Seventy deaths resulted from those accidents. In fact, traffic incidents are a leading cause of death in law enforcement. AAA reports that every six days a tow truck driver loses his life on U.S. roadways. Work zone collisions cause severe injuries and fatalities. Rear-end collisions are a leading cause of roadway work zone fatalities. “Struck-by” data isn’t available for emergency and roadside workers. But the information that is accessible highlights the extreme dangers of working in a roadside environment.
Making the Law Work
Reducing roadside car accidents that lead to injury and death is the key focus of New Jersey’s Move Over law and similar laws across the United States. Unfortunately, awareness and compliance are low. Seven New Jersey law enforcement officers were involved in roadside “struck by” car accidents between August and December of 2018. Complying with the state’s Move Over law would have helped to prevent these accidents.
Recently, state lawmakers sought to make the law more effective. A new bill, A 3890, proposes adding a 2-point reduction to violators’ licenses. Arguably, this harsher penalty will bring more awareness to the law and the need for it.
New Jersey’s Move Over law was introduced with great fanfare a decade ago. Several groups joined forces to bring awareness to motorists. Highway signs displayed messages, and the Attorney General launched a promotional website, which is still up. Promoting safety shouldn’t be up for debate. So, take care and move over for safety on New Jersey’s roadways when you come upon a stationary emergency response vehicle with flashing lights.
If you’ve been injured in a roadway work zone accident, talk to a knowledgeable car accident attorney to explore your options. You may be able to pursue monetary compensation for your injuries.