Published On: Mon, Aug 1st, 2016

How Does the Move Over Law Affect Tow Truck Drivers?

What is the Move Over law?

Some of us may not have even heard of it, or simply don’t understand the specifics. While it might not seem terribly important upon first glance, this law actually has the power to help save lives across the country.

The law applies in every state, with the exception of Hawaii and D.C., though not all areas implemented it at the same time. According to California’s official description of the Move Over regulation:

“A person driving a vehicle on a freeway approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is displaying emergency lights, a stationary tow truck that is displaying flashing amber warning lights, or a stationary marked Department of Transportation vehicle that is displaying flashing amber warning lights, shall approach with due caution.”

The law demands that motorists do one of the following to keep themselves, their passengers, and those working on the road, safe:

  • Change to a lane which is not directly adjacent to the vehicle in question, paying attention to the conditions and taking suitable safety precautions
  • If changing lanes is unsafe or impossible, drivers must slow to a safe speed as traffic and conditions dictate

Any driver violating this law can be fined a maximum of $50. However, this does not apply if the emergency vehicle, whatever category it belongs in, is not adjacent to the freeway, or actually cut-off by a barrier of any kind.

photo courtesy of Pine Towing

photo courtesy of Pine Towing

Ignorance is No Excuse

Most of us would agree that this law is vital, considering how vulnerable emergency workers are on busy freeways. However, not all drivers are so conscientious, and tragedies are surprisingly common.

In Arizona, for example, one tow truck driver loses their life every six days, while 23 highway-workers die each month. Considering the danger these men and women place themselves in to help drivers in trouble, the idea of people ignoring the Move Over law, or even basic safety rules, is shocking.

In Idaho, a tow truck driver was killed earlier in 2016, despite the law being active for ten years. He had actually been hit by a motorist twice within the same twelve-month period: On the first occasion, the worker was struck by a careless driver while responding to a standard call, thrown between 60 and 70 feet; despite recovering and returning to work a few weeks on, he was later killed by a second careless driver.

California’s Caltrans has seen a high number of deaths in the past century. More than 170 of their workers have died since 1924, though the state adopted the Move Over law in 2007, before amending it in 2009 to be more comprehensive.

Tow Truck Drivers: The Importance of Efficient Road Safety

In the case of tow truck drivers, preparing a vehicle for removal can be a time-consuming task, particularly for larger models. While they may place cones and leave amber lights to alert people to their presence, tow truck drivers are still vulnerable while working, and so depend on motorists to stay safe.

The Move Over law is still no guarantee of safety, but the risk of fines or worse does help to make drivers more considerate of workers on the roads.

A spokesperson for Pine Towing of Richmond, CA, said: “The ongoing loss of life among tow truck drivers, and other road-based workers, is unacceptable. We have the Move Over law as a precaution, but motorists must be aware of their responsibilities at all times.

“Towing company workers, and others, have the right to a secure working environment at all times. Lets all hope that the Move Over law continues to become more and more integrated into everyday driving.”

Author: Benjamin Aaronson


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