Expect higher penalties if you ignore state's move over/slow down law

Move over/slow down laws have been passed in all 50 states, but more than 70% of Americans are unaware they exist.

Brittaney Wilmore Image
Tuesday, November 21, 2023
AAA warns about higher penalties for drivers who ignore move over or slow down law
Helping stranded drivers on the side of the road shouldn't be one of America's deadliest jobs, but it is. Here's what you need to know about stiffer penalties if you violate the move over, slow down law.

About 3.7 million Texans will be taking road trips during the five-day Thanksgiving travel period that starts Wednesday and runs through Sunday, according to AAA.

If that's you, and you see an emergency responder helping a stranded driver, remember, it's not a suggestion to drive with caution. It's the law.

Specifically, it falls under the state's move over/slow down law.

It pertains to emergency vehicles that are stopped with their emergency lights flashing on the side of the roadway helping stranded motorists. The law was first passed in 2003 and initially applied to law enforcement, fire, and EMS vehicles. But it's since been expanded to include TxDOT vehicles, tow trucks, and utility service vehicles. If you see one of them, drop your speed to 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit if you can't get over. Otherwise, drivers need to move out of the lane closest to the emergency vehicle on the side of the road.

Move over/slow down laws have been passed in all 50 states, but more than 70% of Americans are unaware they exist. People also tend to confuse the law with thinking that it means they should get out of the way of an emergency vehicle. While you should definitely do that, as noted above, move over/slow down isn't quite the same.

AAA shared videos with ABC13 of the close calls showing what happens when fast-moving traffic doesn't give emergency responders enough space to do their work safely.

In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety surveyed tow workers, emergency responders, and road maintenance workers on their experiences working roadside jobs. Sixty percent had experienced a near-miss, while 15% survived being hit by a passing vehicle.

AAA also reports that every year, 23 roadside workers and first responders die at the roadside. That's about one every two weeks.

In June 2022, volunteer firefighter Colton Adams had his own close call.

He was giving directions to a young, stranded driver on I-45 in Centerville, located halfway between Houston and Dallas, when he and another firefighter were injured. Adams lost his leg. The driver he was talking to was killed. But the truck driver who hit them didn't face nearly the same consequences.

"It was a minor accident giving directions to her sister who was on the phone and the young lady had given the phone to him and said could you tell my sister how to come pick me up and the next thing he knows there's a truck just running into them," Rep. Lynn Stuckey told KBTX. "This guy was back on the road in a matter of days even though he had no insurance and he did not obey the law."

Watch: Texas firefighter who helped inspire change to move over/slow down law

What started as a routine day for one Texas firefighter ended with him losing his leg. But it could have been avoided. Here's what to know about the move over, slow down law.

What happened to Adams and his colleague helped inspired changes to the state's move over/slow down law.

As of Sept. 1, 2023, a first offense could cost you between $500 and just over $1,200, compared to the original fine of up to $200.

If it's your first offense and you seriously injure someone, you could now face a year of jail time and a fine of $4,000. Repeat offenders who cause serious injury could face up to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

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