In 2003, two important pieces of legislation regarding roadway safety were passed by the Oklahoma Legislature to protect motorists and first responders. The Quick Clearance and Move Over bills require motorists to use common sense judgment when driving along Oklahoma’s highways. The Quick Clearance legislation was discussed in a previous blog post, so the focus of this article will be on the Oklahoma Move Over law.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic-related incidents were the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers 13 of the last 15 years. Of the total deaths attributed to traffic incidents, 51 percent were killed in auto crashes, 23 percent were killed in motorcycle crashes and 23 percent were struck and killed by passing vehicles.

In an effort to reduce the number of law enforcement deaths attributed to passing vehicles, Oklahoma passed Move Over legislation. According to the law, when a motorist is passing a stationary emergency vehicle or wrecker the driver is required to “proceed with due caution,” and, if possible, “change lanes into a lane that is not adjacent to the stationary authorized emergency vehicle.” However, if the driver is unable to change lanes due to road, weather or traffic conditions, the driver shall pass the emergency vehicles with due caution and “reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a safe speed” for the existing roadway conditions.

Although there is not much in the language of the legislation for law enforcement officials to enforce the Move Over law, a provision was passed in 2008 by the Oklahoma legislature that states failure to move over or slow down can result in a fine of more than $200. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported 387 citations in 2007 for improperly passing emergency vehicles that were working a scene on the shoulder of the road.

Every state in the US has one form of enforceable Move Over law. However, nine states are more specific in the language of their law than Oklahoma having specific speed reduction requirements for motorists passing emergency vehicles working a scene.

For example, Indiana requires drivers to slow down 10 MPH below the posted speed limit when passing emergency vehicles with flashing lights. Wyoming drivers are required to slow down 20 MPH below the posted speed limit, and in Texas it’s 25 below the posted speed limit. Washington State requires drivers to vacate the lane closest to the stationary emergency vehicle at least 200 feet before the scene.

As a concerned and aware driver, please do your part to yield to emergency vehicles and wreckers that are working the scene of a crash or a highway patrolman who has pulled over a motorist on the shoulder of the highway. Moving over will not only keep you from receiving a citation, it could potentially save the life of the first responders who risk their lives for the community.

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