Changes to the ‘Move Over Law’
In February 2019, a new law was put into place to help protect emergency workers and additional professions.
In January 2019, there were a least a dozen accidents involving Michigan State Police vehicles struck while on patrol or at traffic accident scenes or traffic stops. There were many other accidents throughout the state involving workers such as power company employees, tow truck drivers, and other personnel who assist at emergency scenes that were not covered by the media.
Too many times, additional accidents are caused when people are distracted by emergency personnel on the side of the road and do not pay attention to their vehicle’s speed or where they are steering. With the new “Move Over Law,” penalties are stricter, and the list of professions has expanded.
The previous Move Over Law applied only to police, fire, rescue, ambulance, and road service vehicles (tow trucks and courtesy vehicles operated by the Michigan Department of Transportation) that are stationary with their lights activated. Senate Bill 0447 was signed by former Gov. Rick Snyder in 2018, amending MCL 257.653 to include road maintenance, utility service, and solid waste haulers.
MCL 257.653a(1) states, “Upon approaching and passing a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is giving a visual signal by means of flashing, rotating, or oscillating red, blue, or white lights as permitted … the driver of an approaching vehicle shall exhibit due care and caution”
Section 257.653(1)(a) states, “On any public roadway with at least 2 lanes … in the same direction of the stationary authorized emergency vehicle, the driver of the approaching vehicle shall proceed with caution, reduce … speed by at least 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit, and yield the right-of-way by moving into a lane at least 1 moving lane or 2 vehicle widths apart from the stationary authorized emergency vehicle … If movement to an adjacent lane or 2 vehicle widths apart is not possible … the driver of the approaching vehicle shall proceed as required in subdivision (b).
Section 257.653(1)(b) states, “On any public roadway that does not have at least 2 lanes in the same direction as the stationary authorized emergency vehicle, or if the movement by the driver of the vehicle into an adjacent lane or 2 vehicle widths apart is not possible as described in subdivision (a), the approaching vehicle shall reduce and maintain a safe speed for weather, road conditions, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic and proceed with due care and caution, or as directed by a police officer.”
A person who violates this statue simply by not moving over the proper distance or lowering their speed to at least 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit could face a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both. This offense also carries two points on their driver’s license. In a couple of months, the fine will drop to $400 if you read the specific wording in the new bill.
If a person were to violate this statue and injure emergency response personnel in the immediate area of the stationary authorized emergency vehicle, they would be guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or both, and six points on their driver’s license.
If a death of an emergency response personnel worker occurs, the driver is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of not more than $7,500 or by imprisonment for not more than 15 years, or both.
Overall, I beg you to please pay attention to your emergency responders, whether it is police, fire, first responders or the newly added members of utility companies or solid waste workers. All of these people have families at home who care about them, and they are just preforming their jobs to the best of their abilities to take care of the needs of others, from injuries in accidents to restoring your electrical service. That few minutes’ delay because to you had to slow down for those workers could ultimately mean someone doesn’t lose their life, and, to me, no appointment or place to be means that much.
Ashley Simpson is a community service trooper for the Michigan State Police-Alpena Post. If you have a question for Trooper Simpson, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police-Alpena Post, 3283 W. Washington Ave., Alpena, Mich., 49707.