If you see amber lights or yellow lights, flashing on the side of the road in North Carolina you better be prepared to move into the next lane or slow down. Otherwise, you may be in for a hefty fine.
The Move Over Law, which says that when you see an emergency or a service vehicle on the shoulder or the side of the road, you need to move over into the far lane. This has gotten national attention as the number of fatalities among the police who make traffic stops or others who are aiding at the scene of an accident are themselves becoming causalities.
The author of this article knows this first hand, as he had stopped to assist in a 4-car pileup in Charleston one night.
Two girls who had been joy riding while drinking caused a pile up on one of the main roads between Folly Beach and the city proper.
I saw the finial crash that resulted in the 4 vehicles becoming entangled and stopped at a nearby gas station to alert the authorities and then returned to the scene to render first aid. A patrol car made an appearance and while he was getting info at the scene, I borrowed his first aid kit and flashlight got a pressure bandage on one of the girls who was bleeding and then began directing traffic around the cars.
While directing cars into the far lane to make room for an ambulance and waiting for a paramedic get out to begin assisting the injured. A car ignored the Get Over Law and barreled down the same lane as the ambulance where the paramedic and I were standing.
I pushed the Paramedic back into his seat and waited to be hit by the onrushing car. It swerved slightly and rear-ended the ambulance. Otherwise, this article might not be written today.
So now, the 4-car pileup was 6 cars including the ambulance. The new driver was cited for drinking as well ignoring the Move Over law.
It took over 3 hours to finally sort things out and clear the roadway of wreckage.
So, it is very dangerous on the roads today to be a first responder at an accident scene or a repair/service person repairing downed electrical wires or gas main breaks in the aftermath of heavy snow, rains, or hurricane.
Why the number of service people are being hit by moving vehicles is a mystery
Why this seems to have become more of a problem is unknown. Speed limits really have not changed all that much.
Perhaps it’s due to the fact we have better information tracking and gathering abilities than we had a few years ago.
Some believe it is that drivers are becoming more careless. This is understandable, as nowadays the cell phone is becoming a danger to other drivers, as with some texting or talking on their Smartphones. The often do this instead of paying attention to the road conditions around them.
But we can’t just blame the drivers. The service people often are careless as well and inadvertently stepping into incoming traffic while performing their work.
Emergency workers like paramedics and firefighter are often focused on the job at hand or saving lives and it sometime costs them theirs.
What makes North Carolina’s new law different?
Almost every state in the Union has some form of Move Over Law, with the exception of Washington DC.
What makes North Carolina’s law different is its scope. The law has been expanded to cover any service vehicle and requires them to start their flashers the minute they pull off and stop on the shoulder.
The expansion has made it also a fineable act to not move over into an outside lane or slow down if moving into an alternative lane is not possible.
If an accident occurs the drivers who has not obeyed the law may find themselves not only having their insurance rates double, being fined, Paying for all the court costs. But now they could also face additional problems accident can be considered a class 1 misdemeanor.
This law also focuses on the service people as well as it requires them to make sure their lights are on. This includes tow trucks and all service vehicles whether state owned or not.
This can all be trace to a recent case where and paramedic was injured at a scene of an accident.
He was found to be at fault.
So you see the state is also worried about possible lawsuits and wants to prevent that from happening.
This may in fact be the smoking gun, not so much as to protect the service personnel. But to protect the state government from litigation as state are often seen as having ‘DEEP Pockets” and this makes them targets for frivolous lawsuits.
Since such a lawsuit can run into millions in damages it may be the oblivious move to divest themselves of a service employee is hurt if he doesn’t follow the new guidelines laid down under the new law.
But in any instance you can expect the other states to watch North Carolina quite closely and you’ll probably see them following suit in the near future as people are quicker to sue today as they are likely to drive fast on America’s highways.
In any case, the expanded coverage will work out in favor of the service workers and first responders like police, paramedics and firefighters. So whatever the motivation for the expansion it should start saving more lives on the roads moving into the future.