PHILADELPHIA, PA (April 26, 2021) Flashing lights at the roadside can mean many things – a traffic stop by police, a vehicle fire involving fire fighters, EMS caring for someone injured in a crash, or a tow truck helping a driver with a vehicle emergency. In each situation, there are lives at risk, including those who are simply doing their jobs.
Almost every two weeks, a roadside worker is killed on the job. Every state has a law requiring drivers to slow down and, when possible, move over when flashing lights are seen at the roadside. Pennsylvania’s law is about to change.
Pennsylvania drivers will face changes to the state’s “Move Over Law” beginning Tuesday, April 27. Governor Wolf signed Act 105 on October 29, 2020, which enhances and renames the Steer Clear Law that was enacted in 2001.
Pennsylvania’s new “Move Over Law” will:
- Change the name of the current “Steer Clear Law” to the “Move Over Law”
- Provide that in an emergency response area along a road where there is an emergency response vehicle/operator (i.e. an EMS, police officer, tow truck driver, etc.), the motorist must move over into the left lane. If it is impossible for the motorist to move into the left lane, then the motorist is permitted to stay in the right lane, or in a lane adjacent to the emergency response area, but must reduce speed by 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit.
- Allow a disabled vehicle, defined as, “a vehicle that is in a traffic lane or on the side of a traffic lane and the motorists is clearly marked with at least two of three markings (hazard lights, caution signs, or road flares),” to have the same protections as stated above in an emergency response situation, provided that the motorist with a disabled vehicle use two of the three following items: hazard lights, caution signs, or road flares.
- Imposes two points for failure to merge into the lane not next to the emergency response area.
- Set fines at $500 for first-time offenders, $1,000 for a second offense, and $2,000 for a third or subsequent offense.
- Require a 90-day license suspension for a third or subsequent offense. The license suspension will also apply to accidents that seriously harm or kill another person.
- Set additional fines of up to $10,000 for violators who injure or kill an emergency service responder or an individual in or near a disabled vehicle.
- Double fines for several traffic violations when committed in an emergency response area when first responders are present.
“Emergency responders and roadside workers put themselves at risk every day to help people who are in need of emergency assistance or whose vehicles are broken down,” says Jana L. Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “As an organization committed to traffic safety, AAA asks that everyone join us in obeying the law to keep all highway heroes and those they’re responding to safe by slowing down and moving over anytime you see emergency vehicles stopped at the side of the road. Whether this is a police officer, ambulance, fire truck or someone fixing a tire or working on a tow, slow down and move over to create safe space around them. Their lives are on your shoulders.”
PennDOT defines an emergency response area as one "where an emergency vehicle has its lights flashing, or where road crews or emergency responders have lighted flares, posted signs, or try to warn travelers." Responders include police, fire, and ambulance crews, as well as stopped tow trucks and maintenance vehicles. In addition, drivers must move over or slow down when approaching a stopped trash or recycling truck.
“Day and night, regardless of weather and traffic conditions, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, tow operators, and highway maintenance workers perform various duties along our roadways, often placing themselves at significant risk of harm while serving others in need,” said Krys Johnson, PennDOT Community Relations Coordinator. “Please help us to keep our highways safe for everyone by slowing down and/or moving over when approaching an emergency response area.”
There are more than 350 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania every day that put first responders in harm’s way. According to PA State Police, 7,075 citations were issued in 2018-2019 for Steer Clear/Move Over violations, in addition to 3,204 warnings.
Pennsylvania State Police stress the importance of the changes in the law. “Many drivers seem to think that moving over is just an optional courtesy when they see law enforcement or emergency vehicles pulled over on the side of the road,” State Police Trooper Jessica L. Tobin said. “Emergency personnel can only do so much to keep themselves safe when they pull over on the side of the road. The rest of the responsibility falls on other motorists.”
AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to more than 62 million members nationwide and more than three million members in Pennsylvania. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. AAA is a non-stock, membership corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can map a route, access a COVID travel restriction map, find local gas prices and electric vehicle charging stations, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information on joining or renewing a Membership, visit www.AAA.com.