Many Drivers Still Ignorant Of ‘Move Over Law’

By Bill Shields, WBZ-TV

NORTH ATTLEBORO (CBS) – In March 2009, Massachusetts enacted the “Move Over Law” – when you see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road, you’re supposed to move over one lane.

But many people still don’t follow it.

“I don’t know if the public’s not aware of it enough or what’s going on, but it’s just not working well at all,” Don Achin, owner of Achin’s Garage in North Attleboro, told WBZ-TV.

WBZ-TV’s Bill Shields reports

At Achin’s Garage, they’re hooked in directly to AAA, so sometimes they tow more than 1,000 cars in a month.

Pete Cloutier is one of their tow truck drivers.

He has to step out of his truck to help stranded motorists on the highway and he’s constantly watching oncoming traffic speeding by only feet from where he stands.

“It’s mainly the passenger cars. Everybody’s too busy drinking coffee and texting and talking on the phone,” he said.

State police say they don’t often have the manpower to enforce the “Move Over Law.”

In it’s first year, troopers issued 3,161 violations, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

By 2010, it was up to 4,263.

But this year, there’s been a dropoff to 2,285.

Trooper Dan O’Sullivan saw fellow troopers die on the side of our highways. He saw the public in danger and helped create the law.

“I’d say 7 out of 10 people are aware of it and they do move over. But it’s the other 2 or 3 cars that I’m concerned about. They’re the ones that are going to kill somebody,” he said.

State police say the law is not meant to be a revenue generator, but is designed to save lives.

More from Bill Shields
  • FireGuyFrank

    Many people don’t know how to use a turn signal; how can they be expected to give police, fire and rescue enough space to be safe on scene? Besides, if they move over a lane, they have to stretch their rubber necks longer to see what is really none of their business.

    Of course, moving over one lane also means bottlenecking traffic, so the rubber necking won’t have as much impact.

    • DoverDavid

      FireGuy, great comment! How many times are we stuck in long lines of traffic mostly because peple need to stop and look at what tradegy might be on the side of the road. Most people don’t move over cause they don’t care, it’s not about them and they have to get where their going

  • Joni Tozzi

    sometimes it’s hard to move over because the cars are coming so fast and no one lets you in. and you just can’t stop in the middle of the highway. i try to move over but sometimes i just can’t

    • jackie

      I heard if this is the case, where you can’t pull over to another lane, then you have to slow down.

  • Ellen

    Got my drivers license way back in 1967, and even then they use to tell us to move over when you see an ambulance or police cars with sirens going off.

    • tsal1

      Ellen great comment – isn’t it amazing that what we always did automatically, we now have to have legislation to get us to do?

      • Ellen

        tsai1, are people getting more and more stupid, or is it just me. Right on target with that one.

      • tsal1

        I think people are so worried about their presumed rights that they are overlooking that there are things we should just plain do. Same thing as the comment on Jon Keller’s blog about first right amendment being violated by the emergency response system this afternoon. I grew up with those and since I got my license in 1965 I am assuming you and are are about the same age and you also remember them. No one would have even dreamed of crying first amendment abuse.

        Long way to saying I think your first choice is the answer :)

      • Ajay

        I wonder what the parents would be screaming if their kids had to hide under the desks for an air raid drill? I few minutes for a test of the system is nothing.

      • fred

        This has been said many times before, but you can’t legislate COMMON SENSE. Many of the accidents that have occured have been caused by people breaking other laws as well (speeding, drinking, texting, etc). It’s simple, move over if you safely can or slow down and proceed with caution if you can’t move over. It’s not rocket science.

    • Mark

      This article is not about moving to the side of the road if an emergency vehicle with it’s lights on is approaching you. Rather it’s about emergency vehicles on the side of the road – whether it be a police car stopping a car for infractions, a tow truck with flashing lights assisting a troubled motorist, or an ambulance assisting people on the side of the road. It’s now a law to move towards the inside lane so that there is an empty lane between the traffic and the emergency vehicle on the side of the road.

  • emom

    Not only on the highway is it hard try doing it on ordinary roads, the traffic flow from the other side is, THIS IS MY LANE GET THE HELL OUT OF IT. They will not budge either.. so maybe another plan needs to be used. I understand that moving over is vital , Just like when emergency vehicles moving you are to move over YEAH RIGHT. that is something of like a suggestion to some. But it does not seem to work well on extremely busy road ways. and very few times is there an office to get them to move over.

    • tsal

      The law is to move over if you can safely do so – otherwise slow down. I’ve never in the decades I’ve been driving had trouble moving over. It takes some planning and awareness. You should be aware of what cars are around you at all time – whether there is an emergency vehicle or not.

    • response

      You have to wait until the traffic flow stops so you can cross the yellow line safely to get around.
      They do have the right of way. You cannot just cross over the yellow line.

      • emom

        Seems you think I don’t know this. I have had a clear , clean driving record, pull over for all emergency vehicles, my kid See’s people speeding on by , My kid knows its wrong and well at 14 I must be doing something right. I speak of all the others that either have no clue or rather do not truly care,
        I also know that crossing the yellow line is there for a reason and you just cant pass unless it is either safe or allowed, 32 years of driving , I have a clue. But unfortunately there are far more in this world that does not care , like people crossing the path of another car all because they are in a hurry and feel entitled to cross, when they never had the right of way… SORRY , but I hate it when so many drivers are being sanctimonious and get ticked off with a good driver.
        I for one have serious issues with people that break the law, driving to endanger, and never once thinking about others that are on the road , Yeah that’s the bigger issue here, self righteous people who feel they own the roads, That is partly why so many accidents happen , and roads congested and people having lack of knowledge of the RULES OF THE ROADS , well sorry that is a huge problem these days. SO if you happen to get behind someone that takes a few extra seconds to pull out into traffic , or happens to be waiting forever to flow into traffic, and who lets you cut in from of them Please by all means be grateful, since My taking that few extra seconds to move just might save a life . AGAIN sorry cant stand selfish people

  • emom

    As an observant driver, which by the way is a great thing now days.. I see so many young drivers drive obvious, I mean , so involved in a conversation with a hand held cell phone, ( no blue tooth), singing to a song , chowing on some hoagie, slurping on a biggie drink, brushing hair, applying makeup, trying to lite up, frantically searching for something on the front seat. looking forward and never seeing whats right behind them , beside them or well even in front of them, Its like they drive like they are the only ones on the road and if you happen to be the one in their way and don’t move like NOW, they get all up in arms and start getting mad and flip you off.
    I think we live in a world that so many younger people feel they do not have to obey or observe the laws we have. Look at those that just get their license, they drive with speed in mind, Don’t get me wrong some are very good driving, But for the majority there are many that think of a car as a way to escape to parts unknown. we see it all the time. But not only the younger folks drive this way, trust me I have a few in the family that drive aggressively and that bothers me alot… and one is being taught by his dad and he is conflicted with being safe and his dad telling him to be more aggressive and just pull out,,
    I wonder if this is whats happening to drivers today. aggressiveness over safety in mind. How sad is that these days.

    • zaug

      and god forbid if your stopped with your turn signal on trying to make a turn and your in their way

      • emom

        Zaug I agree, they would run you over and never give it another thought,
        to my surprise, this actually happened today,, what a surprise, and traffic was backed up and no one would give and inch,,, No wonder we have so many problems on the road,

  • MA_driving_chaos

    I’m not sure what the issue is. It’s another horrible piece of legislation that had good intentions, but was too broadly written to make any sense.

    A tow truck driver is angry because people don’t change lanes. Well, they don’t have to:

    (b) Upon approaching a stationary emergency vehicle, highway maintenance vehicle or recovery vehicle with flashing lights an operator shall:

    (1) proceed with due caution, reduce the speed of the vehicle to that of a reasonable and safe speed for road conditions, and, if practicable and on a highway having at least 4 lanes with not less than 2 lanes
    proceeding in the same direction as the operator‟s vehicle, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the emergency response vehicle, highway maintenance vehicle or
    recovery vehicle; or

    (2) if changing lanes is impracticable, proceed with due caution and reduce the
    speed of the vehicle to that of a reasonable and safe speed for road conditions.

    As soon as MA figures out how to non-numerically determine “reasonable speed” for drivers, they’ll be all set. You may as well lump this into all the drivers with no headlights on in a blinding rainstorm, traveling on the highway doing 85mph in a black car at 9pm in the dark. Common sense always fails.

    • Michael Lacey

      apparently you dont know the law.the law is move over /slow down.this is for all motorists every motorists is required to slow down upon approaching emergency vehicle and move over if safe to do so.If it is safe they ARE REQUIRED TO MOVE OVER. OTher wise, SLOW THE HECK DOWN, and give us some room

    • tsal1

      perhaps MA would not have to legislate if people did what was right. I suspect the family’s of police who have been killed or injured because of lack of consideration would agree with that.

    • emom

      If only the majority did just this, then accidents would be far less and insurance rates would be lower, and things would be simpler.. something I for one would love to see, But when people drive to endanger then it becomes more of a problem when you are trying very hard to be safe. Maybe its me, But I see many trying to be safe but someone somewhere has to mess it up for the rest.
      But what you have said is by all means COMMON SENSE, unfortunately that is something that is lacking in this world. Once again this is not our parents time frame, when things were far better and people did do the right thing,, But I wish it was …..

      • tsal1

        emom – I wish it were as well – when we just did what was decent and right

    • Jim6555

      I used to live in MA and now live in Florida. They have a similar move-over law here. The Florida law says that if you can’t move over, you must reduce your speed to 20 mph under the posted speed limit. Defining at what speed you can go makes a lot more sense than “reasonable and safe”.

  • a

    To the tow companies, – the solution is simple.

    Bring a shovel and a hardhat when you get out of the truck.
    This is a Massachusetts.

    Bring those and you will immediately have at least 2 state troopers on details behind you

  • Denise

    Posting to this website is sometimes as frustrating as the drivers on Rt 2! Can we vote for the road w/ the worst drivers instead??? Rt2 is a small 2 lane highway w/ solar glare and people that think 80-85 is a good traveling speed. They don’t have time to react to someone stepping on their brakes – never mind actually seeing a car on the side of the road needing assistance and being able to pull over. My favorite is the 4 lanes from Rt 2 and 140 trying to merge down to 2 lanes… gotta love it – I’m surprised there isn’t more problems there! Driving today is definately taking your life in your hands – never mind getting someone to stop or slow down if there is an accident – people drive up on the grass to get around you if their in the way! Never mind having the consideration to let them get out of the way. We’re all to busy being busy… Slow down – your life should be lived not sped thru!

  • JohnC

    As a long time critic of truck drivers, I must say that the drivers of the big rigs are the best in this regard. Passenger car drivers are (in my opinion) idiots. There is no reason why a driver would not move over to give an emergency vehicle driver a little room. There should be no need for legislation. Itr’s common sense. Oops, I forgot. There is no common sense anymore.

    • tsal1

      Hi JohnC – oops – you are right.

  • Ken S.

    About the move over law.I have moved over and been passed by vehicles on the right. Not enough patrols.Unmarked cars should be used. The same drivers that don’t move over are the distracted drivers that don’t stop for stop signs or yield signs or school buses with the red lights on. We need more police on the roads. Massachusetts Has a high auto iinsurance. I wonder why.

    • tsal

      Ken S – MA hasn’t been hiring for years – and yes they need more Auto insurance has always been high here even when departments were fully staffed, however.

  • bp

    Many drivers are just plain ignorant.Period.

  • km

    I never knew about it :( luckily I always drive in the middle lane.

  • emom

    Honestly what is up with people these days,, I thank god for having my dad teach me defensive driving. It has come in handy so many times. Tonight is a perfect example of people not using that thing on their should , or as my dad use to say , “Use that thing between your ears,,” took me a bit to figure that out ,, WHAT I was little at the time, DUH your brain,,,, OK , at an intersection , there is heavy traffic and the light changes, Do you think even one person would use that thing between their ears , oh hell no.., instead of not continuing passed the intersection oh no they block the next road from crossing the road, creating a huge traffic jam and then they scream , honk and yell out you for crossing their path,, AH hello the light is green for our side, its you that is BLOCKING our path.. besides where are you going to go,, its bumper to bumper. Honestly I bet none would have MOVED out of the way to even allow an emergency vehicle by, they just kept creeping up, giving no one space to cross the road.. RUDE, And before that I almost got hit by someone that just thought the red light meant continue thru… I had a green light BUt saw this person speeding and well stopped and waited , good thing, she took that turn very fast,, Real stupid. aggressive drivers ,,,

  • mom123

    I travel 290 and everyone seems aware of the move over law— the problem is I see more accidents almost caused by drivers moving into the center lane whether it is clear or not, There will be accidents caused by drivers moving over when it is not safe to do so.

    • tsal1

      why would a driver move over if it’s not safe?

  • Italo

    It’s because this is Massachusetts, and drivers especially around the Boston area are aggressive, self-centered, clueless jerks–and, 92 out of 108 times, it’ll always be the giant SUVs with the ribbon or stick family banners stuck on their rear, Hummers, BMWs, jock jeeps, and low-riders exhibiting this behavior and hampering with good and conscientious drivers around them attempting to obey the laws on the road.

  • Brian

    I see a lot of people move over when the police are in the breakdown lane, but do nothing for tow trucks and other emergency vehicles. I think people generally think you only need to move over for the police.

  • Matthew

    You want to talk about ignorant driving I work in construction zones and even on back roads where the Speed Limit is 25MPH you pass me at 50 MPH and dodge in and out of cones.

    • tsal

      Matthew I thought of workers like yourself and the detail officers working in those zones when the comment was made that moving over would cause accidents. Most of these comments are excuses by people who don’t want to have to deal with anything interfering with their day to day lives. I’d love to see them stand on the side of the road with you for a few days. Be safe!

  • yonex badminton

    I agree with you, but please look at yonex badminton rackets.

  • EElvis

    I would be willing to bet there are more near accidents from people trying to move over and get clipped by the car behind them. I failed to move over because I was on a dark highway at night where cars were going 50 mph. I didnt want to pull a manuever where I’d pull into the next lane in front of some guy who then hits me. Not to mention at 50 mph, I would rather keep my eyes on the cop giving someone a ticket to make sure I didn’t hit him, then to take my eyes off the road to look over my shoulder at my blindspot, put on my signal and then shift lanes. Seems to me more dangerous to take your eyes off the cop to change lanes than to take care not to hit him passing by. He even admitted that the law was to keep distracted drivers from hitting police on the side of the road. I’d rather have an alert driver pass me with his eyes on me, than one switch lanes at 50 mph and take his eyes off me to do it. Especially when I see the cop on the passenger side of the car … its not like he is hanging out into traffic but on the complete opposite side of the car. Why not pull people over on safer parts of the highway??

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