Keeping up with the new Maryland laws can be difficult and confusing, so we’d like to keep you informed about the new laws that will most impact your everyday life. Oftentimes, Marylanders are arrested for laws they did not even know existed. Some are charged with penalties and fines they did not know were associated with a law, like extra jail time and larger fines.
A recent law that has been passed could be a contributor to traffic jams on the highways, but could also result in saving lives. As of October 1, 2014, you are now required by the Maryland state law to move over one empty lane for emergency vehicles on the side of the road, including tow trucks and vehicle assistance.
What is it?
You may recall a previous law that sounded awfully similar to this one from back in 2010. On October 1, 2010, the law was passed by Maryland legislature that you must move over for emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road when possible. The full schedule and bill text is available on the Maryland State website. A revision was made to this law in 2014 to include tow trucks and further encourage law enforcement to enforce the law. Read more on this revision and its impact here.
To summarize the bill, the law states:
You are required by law to move over for emergency vehicles 1 empty lane when possible. If a lane merge is not possible or the road is a one-lane road, you are required to slow down to a reasonable speed limit based on the conditions of the road at that time.
Emergency vehicles include:
- Police cars
- Fire trucks
- Medical & Rescue vehicles
- Tow Trucks/Vehicle Assistance
The next time you are driving down the highway and see a tow truck in the emergency lane, you should merge over one lane to avoid any close contact with the truck, the driver, or the vehicle requiring assistance.
The law was created to establish safer roads for Maryland and its workers. There are many videos of drivers losing control and crashing into an officer on the side of the road and Maryland is looking to limit these accidents as much as possible.
Will They Really Pull You Over?
Yes. In an analysis of the law, it was stated that in 2013, a total of 2,444 citations were issued to drivers “for illegally approaching an emergency vehicle from the rear.” Officers, especially State Troopers, are cracking down on driving laws on the highways and if you do not move over, you will face a fine and potential points. As with most driving laws, this is a primary offense and they will not hesitate to fine you.
Penalties and Fines
All traffic violations come with a price and points towards your driving record. You will be charged a fine of $110 and one point if you are pulled over and cited for illegally approaching an emergency vehicle from the rear. If you do not move over 1 lane and cause an accident, you face a $150 fine and 3 points. If the crash results in serious injury or death, then you will be fined $750 and 3 points with potential for manslaughter in the event of a death.
Move Over for Bicycles
Many Maryland drivers are unaware that there is a “move over” law for bicycles as well. If you are passing a bicycle, motorized wheelchair, moped, or a similar vehicle, you are required to pass them safely at a distance of at least 3 feet. Failure to oblige will result in a fine of $80 and one point. If you do not follow this law and cause a traffic accident, the fine is bumped up to $120 and three points. If the accident resulted in death of the cyclist, you face a potential manslaughter charge as well.
We understand the need for safety on the roads and to protect our law enforcement agents; however, both the “move over” law for emergency vehicles and bicycles have some problems we find unclear. Primarily, it’s unclear on what constitutes a “slow” speed when you are unable to merge over to another lane. In the vast majority of cases, you will not be pulled over for driving slowly by the scene of an accident, but what the officer deems as “slow” could differ from our perspective.
It is stated in the “move over” law for cyclists that the cyclist must be obeying all other traffic laws that abide to their mode of transportation.
Both of these laws offer officers an opening to unnecessarily fine motorists. For this reason, there has been an increase in traffic jams on various highways across the State simply because people are trying to move over for the emergency vehicles on the side of the road. Please remember that if you can’t move over, just slow down.
What are your thoughts on the new law?