|Drivers must slow down and move over for Emergency vehicles.|
The new law creates a 200-foot zone around stationary emergency vehicles that have their lights activated. This includes Medic One, fire engines, police cars, tow trucks and even Department of Transportation vehicles.
The reason for the increased safety zone is to protect first responders. Fines for speeding in these zones will double, and tickets for failing to slow down and move over will also double, from $124 to $248.
Currently, the "Move Over Law" requires motorists traveling on a road with at least two lanes in their direction to move over one lane from the shoulder when approaching an emergency vehicle with its lights activated. Drivers are also required by law to slow down and proceed with caution.
On roads with one lane in each direction, motorists must slow down and pass to the left of the emergency vehicle if it is safe to do. But, they must yield the right-of-way to all oncoming traffic before proceeding.
The new law has similar wording, but increases the safety zone in front and behind active emergency vehicles to 200 feet, and doubles the fine for failing to slow down or move over.
The increased safety zone was voted into law due to the injuries and fatalities suffered by emergency personnel by drivers who failed to yield or give a wide berth to emergency vehicles. Recently, a couple police officers responding to a disabled vehicle were injured when they had to jump off the road to avoid being hit by an inattentive driver. In another recent case, a tow truck driver was killed while tending to a disabled vehicle on the southbound lanes of Interstate 5.
Between April 2009 and December 2010, the "Move Over Law" has resulted in 2,940 drivers being warned by Washington State Patrol officers, with 592 tickets issued.
This law increases the safety zone around emergency vehicles, and is likely to result in more citations in an effort to reduce the injuries and fatalities suffered by police, medics and tow truck drivers while they're trying to do their job.
Please slow down and make sure you give these workers plenty of room when approaching them on the road. If not, you're looking at a hefty fine beginning January 1.
Sources: Washington State Patrol, Seattle Times