Jacksonville, Florida – The New Year in Florida brings with it an important update to the state’s “Move Over” law, aimed at enhancing road safety for both motorists and emergency responders. House Bill 425, an amendment to the existing law, broadens the scope of protection to include not just first responders, tow trucks, and municipal vehicles, but also all disabled vehicles displaying hazard lights, emergency flares, or emergency signage, as well as vehicles that are stopped with people present.
Under the updated law, drivers are now mandated to move over for these vehicles. In situations where moving over is not possible, the law requires drivers to slow down to at least 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. This expansion of the “Move Over” law is a significant step towards ensuring the safety of individuals who find themselves in vulnerable positions on the roadside.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that while “move over” laws differ from state to state, there is no overarching federal law governing this issue. In some states, failure to comply with these laws can result in penalties, including fines and jail time. In Florida, as per Mark Jenkins, spokesperson for the AAA Auto Club, violators could face a noncriminal moving violation and a fine of up to $158. Jenkins added, “The roadside is a dangerous place for anyone, whether it’s a first responder or a daily commuter.”
AAA has been an advocate for enhancing the existing law, spearheading campaigns like ‘Move Over for Me’. Jenkins expressed satisfaction with the law’s amendment, highlighting its potential to save lives by giving more space to those on the roadside.
Statistics from the Labor Bureau reveal the high risks associated with roadside stops, where nearly 350 people were fatally struck while standing outside of a disabled vehicle between 2016 and 2020. Moreover, tow truck operators and emergency responders face significant dangers, with tow operators experiencing a kill rate of approximately 43 deaths per 100,000 workers.
St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick also voiced support for the law, citing a recent incident where a deputy was struck by a vehicle during a traffic stop, resulting in a broken hand. Jenkins reiterated the importance of the law for the safety of roadside heroes, saying, “We ask that drivers minimize distractions and constantly pay attention to the road ahead of you. Moving over just a few feet could mean the difference of life and death.”
AAA advises passengers to assist drivers in staying alert to roadside emergencies. For motorists who find themselves stranded, it is recommended to pull over as far onto the roadside shoulder as possible, use hazard lights, and, if safe, remain with the vehicle while being conscious of oncoming traffic. The updated “Move Over” law is a reminder of the collective responsibility to ensure safety on the roads, not just for ourselves but for those around us.