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‘Move Over’ Law Expanded into Virginia

Low angle view of a car pulled over on the side of the highway.

The expansion aims to enhance roadway safety and prevent accidents.

Effective July 1, 2023, all drivers on Virginia highways must now switch lanes when passing any vehicle pulled over on the side of the road – the result of expanded legislation.

The Move Over Law, also known as “Scott’s Law,” initially required drivers to move over to a non-adjacent lane when passing law enforcement or emergency vehicles parked on the side of the road with flashing, blinking, or alternating lights. The 2002 law was designed to create a safety buffer for first responders, reducing the risk of them being struck by passing vehicles.

The recent legislation expands the Move Over Law to protect highway drivers by requiring motorists to move over a lane or slow down when approaching any stationary vehicle displaying flashing or hazard lights. This expansion now includes maintenance and construction vehicles, tow trucks, and stranded motorists who may find themselves in vulnerable situations on the side of the highway.

Maryland already has a version of this law, passed in 2014. In Maryland, a motorist is required by Maryland state law to move over one empty lane for emergency vehicles on the side of the road, including tow trucks and vehicle assistance.  This law was expanded to include moving for any stopped, standing, or parked vehicle displaying warning signals.

However, cars are not required to move over, if doing so would be unsafe; for example, if there is traffic in the lane next to them.

Protection for all highway drivers

The goals of the expanded legislation include:

  • Increased safety: Highway drivers facing car troubles or emergencies have an additional level of protection from oncoming traffic, reducing the risk of further accidents and potential injuries.
  • Fewer accidents and injuries: By requiring drivers to either move over a lane or slow down significantly, the law provides added time for drivers to react to potential hazards, significantly reducing the likelihood of accidents.
  • Heightened awareness: The expanded law can serve as a reminder for all drivers to stay alert and exercise caution in various driving conditions.

Hundreds killed each year in the U.S.

Janet Brooking, executive director of Drive Smart Virginia, is hopeful that drivers will abide by the law because, despite any potential inconvenience, they want to be safe. And one day, they could be the driver pulled over due to car trouble, a medical crisis, or running out of gas.

“It’s so easy to just move over one lane and give them the space that they need to do what they’re doing,” she said.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, around 300 people are killed each year in car accidents after stopping on the side of the road.

Failure to follow the move-over law is considered reckless driving. Penalties could include license suspension or even jail time in cases involving accidents.

If you’ve been hurt, an attorney can fight for you

Angela Hurley was killed along I-95 near Ashland in July 2022 as she sat in her broken-down car waiting for help. A driver ran into the shoulder and hit her car.

“You hear story after story,” Brooking said. “And once you learn a little bit more, you realize that a lot of these crashes are preventable and that’s what makes it so sad.”

The expanded Move Over Law has other legal implications, as failure to follow the law could be seen as evidence of negligence in cases involving car accidents and significant injury. But recovering compensation can be complicated. Negligent drivers often deny responsibility, and insurance companies use many tactics to try to pay victims as little as possible.

That’s why you need experienced legal representation. If you’ve been hurt in a highway accident, contact the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick. We can protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve.

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