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Posted at 9:25 AM ET, 12/ 6/2010

Maryland's 'Move Over' law

By Robert Thomson

This traveler's message to me started off with some holiday getaway guidance, but then took an unfortunate turn:

"On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I avoided I-95 and took Route 301 through Maryland. There was no traffic and it was a very nice drive, with one exception. I got a ticket for failing to move one lane to the left when passing a state police car parked on the right shoulder. I must pay a $110 fine!

"At the time, I had never heard of any such law. I now know that Maryland's law became effective the first of October, and I further understand that there are similar "move-over laws in the surrounding states as well.

"Have you written about any of these move-over laws in your column?"

DG: The message reminded me of similar ones I used to get from Virginia drivers who were having their first, equally unfortunate experiences with Virginia's Move Over law.

Just by coincidence, I had this item in my Dr. G's tips column on Sunday:

"This fall, Maryland joined almost all the other states, including Virginia, that have adopted laws requiring drivers to move to another lane or slow down when they are passing near police cars and other emergency vehicles stopped along a highway.

"Violating the law, which took effect Oct. 1, carries a fine of $110 and one point on a driver's license. If the violation contributes to a traffic crash, the fine is $150 and three points. If the violation contributes to a traffic crash resulting in death or serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points."

If you want to drive in a state without such a law, you'll have to go to Hawaii. Drive north to Ontario, and you risk a ticket for this also.

See the Maryland Move Over law here. The key provisions are similar to the others I've seen:

"If practicable and not otherwise prohibited, make a lane change into an available lane not immediately adjacent to the emergency vehicle with due regard for safety and traffic conditions.

"If the driver of the motor vehicle is unable to make a lane change ... slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing weather, road and vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions."

No, the law doesn't specify what speed is reasonable, so it's best to err on the side of prudence.

By Robert Thomson  | December 6, 2010; 9:25 AM ET
Categories:  Traffic Safety  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, travel tips  
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Comments

It's good to see that these laws are actually being enforced. Regardless of what state you're in, it basically dictates common sense and responsibility.

That a DC-area driver lacks such basic decency is not a surprise.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | December 6, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

If you are on the beltway or other congested highway, it certainly is not practical, safe or reasonable to simply move to another lane upon approaching a police vehicle on the side of the road. But if the police vehicle is on the side of the road, is it actually engaged in such activity (when parked and idly sitting there) that would warrant a driver moving over all the time. And if this driver was then ticketed for not moving other this policeman was not actively engaged in any police business that would have warranted his moving over anyway. There is a problem with this scenario that was not covered by this legislation's purpose and it is sad that in these dire economic times, this driver was forced to pay $110 for this type of nonsense. The law was intended to provide better safety to officers engaged in police business on the roads, not simply sitting on the side of the road to write tickets for anyone that does not move over!!!!

Posted by: hotezzy | December 6, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

They should double the guy's fine to $220. Call the extra $110 a stupidity tax.

Posted by: jeadpt | December 6, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

"They should double the guy's fine to $220. Call the extra $110 a stupidity tax."

How about a jerk tax for anyone making idiotic statements on blogs? $500 sounds good to me.

Posted by: capsfan77 | December 6, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

It's good they're enforcing the law.

Now, if Maryland would only pass a "move over" law directed at left lane coasters. I'm sick of them.

Posted by: ceefer66 | December 6, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

What would you do, hotezzy? Pull over behind the police officer, get out of your car, and ask whether he's on a donut break or on official police business?

I'd cheer if you ended up getting run over by someone like yourself.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | December 6, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I grew up in a state that has had this law for as along as I can remember. Get a clue.

Posted by: Wallenstein | December 6, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Hotezzy,

It's safe to say that your presence on the road does absolutely nothing to contribute to the overall public safety, so the benefit of the doubt goes to the police.

Cripes, if you're going to try to use your brain that much, try being reasonable.

Posted by: Wallenstein | December 6, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

My dad told me that when he was learning to drive in NJ ( maybe 50 yrs ago) there was a law that you had to ride in the right lane(s) and use the left lane(s) for passing. He said that the stat troopers enforced this law. I think a law like this is a good idea. I don't mind the 'move over' law . Maybe laws like this should be publicized more before they are put into effect.

Posted by: 10bestfan | December 6, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I believe that driver had not heard of this law. I hadn't. Clearly it was not well advertised.

Though he was in his rights to issue a ticket, perhaps the trooper should have issued a warning instead, unless the driver was operating his vehicle in a manner he failed to mention in the message.

Posted by: krickey7 | December 6, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Although I see a benefit for a law like this, I find it uncompromisable to determine what prudent speed to slow down to if you can't switch lanes. Any I don't think a police officer should be given the power to determine that either. This really boils down to a police officer can ticket you if he feels like it based on his judgment rather some legal standard that one can put into practice.

Posted by: neil64 | December 6, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

The law isn't unreasonable but the fact that police are giving $110 tickets without the new law being adequately publicized is an example of the arrogance with which our public officials treat their "subjects".

I always slow down and move left to give adequate protection to the police when passing roadside stops but have never heard of a requirement to move into another lane when passing a stopped police vehicle. This change in the law certainly didn't get the publicity given to seat belt and cell phone use laws.

Posted by: SJP172 | December 6, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse

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