Criminal Justice

"Move Over, America, It's the Law"

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speed trap

71 percent of Americans (including your humble correspondent) have never heard of "move over" laws and cheerfully violate them all the time. In effect in 40 states, the laws "require drivers approaching a police vehicle with flashing lights activated either to make an immediate lane change or to slow down at least 20 MPH under the posted speed limit." In Virginia, failing to "move over" can earn you a $2,500 fine.

"Our nation's law enforcement professionals put their lives on the line to protect our citizens," said Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations. "Slowing down and changing lanes to give our first responders the space they need to stay safe is the least we can do in return. It's what we must do. Move Over, America. It's the law."

Consider yourself warned. 

Via Fark

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  1. and, if reasonable, with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, yield

    Shouldn’t that be enough to exonerate “violators”?

  2. Ha! Moving over for a cop car cost me about 30 minutes of intimidation and scrutiny and almost earned me a ticket. I didn’t use my turn signal when I moved over to give him so room, so he showed me some “gratitude”.

  3. The laws are heavy handed, yes.

    But anyone who doesn’t make way for first responders when the sirens and flashing lights are on (yes, including cops) is a jerk.

  4. Weird.. I didn’t even know that was the law in Virginia. I never see anyone else do it. I always do because I was brainwashed in Indiana where we all knew that it was the law.

  5. Rimfax

    Some cops are also jerks. I’m glad you moved over, though.

  6. 71 percent of Americans (including your humble correspondent) have never heard of “move over” laws and cheerfully violate them all the time.

    You don’t pull over to let life saving ambulances and fire trucks drive by?!?!

    What sort of fucking animal are you?

  7. Back when I was learning to drive the Oregon Drivers’ Manual stated that if you were driving and heard sirens but could not see them, you should pull over to the side of the road and wait until an officer informs you that it is OK to proceed.

  8. You don’t pull over to let life saving ambulances and fire trucks drive by?!?!

    What sort of fucking animal are you?

    Life Saving vehicles yes, cops, no.

  9. HPD harrass and ticket drivers on the (practically) shoulderless Westpark tollway all the time. It is wildly dangerous for all involved as the traffic slows and has to drive around the stopped vehicle. Infuriates me every time some badged jackass impedes the flow of traffic to write a useless speeding ticket.

    Then on the 1st of this month this cop bought it while citing another harmless driver (seriously, it’s a freakin’ safe tollway except for the cop problems).

  10. It’s not an unreasonable courtesy to slow down or move over for anyone stopped on the road, but I can’t imagine how this could be fairly enforced. Frankly, if there isn’t enough room on the shoulder to safely pull someone over without affecting traffic, then the shoulder should needs to be bigger. I guess the police who has some control over where to pull someone over deserves more protection than the poor soul who has to change a tire on the side of traffic.

  11. It seems a lot of people aren’t getting the gist of this. We all know to pull over when emergency responders are ‘going somewhere’ near you.

    Trying to move over into the next lane on the freeway because a cop pulled someone over is dangerous.

    I was in a line of 6 cars today on the way to work. We approached a cop on the side of the road who was citing somebody. 1 car frantically changed lanes, the rest of us stayed in our lane because there was not enough time to change lanes safely.

    5 of us broke the law. We were the safe drivers.

    1. the law says if you can not change lanes to slow down.so no you dont have to change lanes if its not safe.the gist of this law is to keep everyone safe not just the cops.

  12. Virginia Code 46.2-921.1
    The driver of any motor vehicle, upon approaching a stationary emergency vehicle

    Maybe I misread, but the photo (substituting a real police car and activating the light on it) seems to illustrate tha law that will earn the red car a citation as soon as it passes Mister Blue. I took it not that this is about yielding to moving emergency vehicles, but doing all that stuff when you see some guy pulled over on the grass getting a ticket, ie, not an emergency.

    But since I’m typing this while driving, I may have missed something.

  13. fixed link

    HPD harrasses and ticket drivers on the (practically) shoulderless Westpark tollway all the time. It is wildly dangerous for all involved as the traffic slows and has to drive around the stopped vehicle. Infuriates me every time some badged jackass impedes the flow of traffic to write a useless speeding ticket.

    Then on the 1st of this month this cop bought it while citing another harmless driver (seriously, it’s a freakin’ safe tollway except for the cop problems).

  14. 71 percent of Americans (including your humble correspondent) have never heard of “move over” laws and cheerfully violate them all the time.

    Women drivers. Sheesh!

  15. Ah, another insight into the nuanced mind of the average H&R poster. Some cops do bad things, therefore it’s OK to risk hitting a cop standing at a pulled-over vehicle.

  16. I did not know about the law. Last week I had a serious WTF Heavy-braking brown-stain inducing moment when a trucker in right lane complied with it. I was on I64 east bound from Richmond to Norfolk when the truck jumped in front of me. I did not see the cop because the truck was obscuring my view of the right (state trooper with victim) shoulder.

  17. M,

    You may not be aware of this, but when a car is pulled over by a cop, quite often the need arises for the cop to stand at the driver’s window and discuss various things. On narrow-shouldered roads, this exposes the cop to getting pulverized by passing traffic if they don’t move over.

  18. duster,

    Yes, changing lanes is sometimes unsafe…which is why you have the option of slowing down.

  19. $2500 fine?!?! Fuck!

  20. The overseer rode around the planta-TION
    The officer is off patrollin’ all de na-TION
    The overseer could stop you watch’you doing
    The officer will pull you over JUST WHEN HE’S PURSUING!

    WOOP! WOOP!

  21. crimethink – okay. I guess I just mentally left it to motorists to avoid hazarding cops’ safety in such situations, leaving it to their common-sense to get out of that lane when they safely could, and slow down when they couldn’t, without being governed into doing so. Never thought about it before. Kinda like swerving for a squirrel, writ large, except that you’d choose to run over the squirrel if you couldn’t safely spare it, whereas you might risk a collision if that was the only way to protect the cop. But I’ve always wondered why cops don’t pull further off the road when they can.

    1. cops dont pull all the way over just incase.the car stays out farther then them to help block them from traffic.

  22. I see cops her in Missouri all the time driving down the raod they turn on their lights and sirens to get around a turn or throuh a stoplight and then turn them off and drive normal speeds.

  23. Yes, one of those “move over” laws recently went into effect where I live, but I hardly see the point. The only cop around is the one I didn’t move over for, and since he’s on the side of the road dealing with someone else, he’s not going to hop in his car and come after me.

  24. On narrow-shouldered roads, this exposes the cop to getting pulverized by passing traffic if they don’t move over.

    Exactly – and the risk of pulverization is at least some incentive not to pull over people. If it’s not worth the risk of getting pulverized, it’s not worth pulling someone over.

    I’m against anything that reduces the costs to cops of pulling people over. They have enough incentive to get the really dangerous people as it is and most the time they pull someone over it’s about revenue generation, not safety. We don’t need to make that job any easier for them to do.

  25. Crap — I must owe the PD thousands of dollars by now. I hope they’re not keeping record 🙂

  26. Another modus operandi in MO is for speed traps to be double -teamed. Both prowlers will be pulled in behind the villanous perpetrator, but the one to the rear will stay in his car just in case he has to pursue another thoughtless individual who fails to jack her vehicle into the adjoining lane at 60 mph.

  27. This is one of those things that should be considered common courtesy which people who clearly don’t have enough to do have decided to codify into law. I was always raised to move (if safe) over as a courtesy, whether it’s a police or someone changing a tire. It’s just the right thing to do, because no one wants 2 tons of steel flying by at 65 mpg a couple of feet away.

  28. All your lane are belong to us!

  29. dead_elvis:

    I am now embarrassed. My comment @ 8 was meant as a joke. I always do give courtesy to anything stopping in the emergency lane if it is to do so. I do it, not of my awareness of the law, but out of common sense and plain decency.

  30. “if it is safe to do so”

  31. Sometimes it’s necessary to turn the lights to beat the rush at Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Please, the fuzz is people, too.

  32. I’ve tried several times to formulate a coherent response, but the fact that I am a first responder (EMT firefighter) and have had several close calls because of drivers who couldn’t be bothered to pay attention interferes with my rationality. So I’ll just say what I really mean:
    If you can’t move over for a stopped emergency vehicle, or are too incompetent to safely execute a lane change (here’s a hint-look far ahead and you’ll have plenty of time to plan that lane change. If you can’t see around the 18 wheeler, You’re too fucking close) then you shouldn’t be on the road.

    1. i love this comment.i hope that ppl will move over for you.i dont think some of these ppl a grasping the fact that this will help you get home to your family,like they are to busy to think you might have kids.anyway stay safe.

  33. Just what is the libertarian justification for opposing these laws? Is not having to change lanes a natural right?

    JB in MO-Interesting observation. And in no way relevant to the discussion at hand.

  34. Some cops do bad things, therefore it’s ok to be an asshat on the road.

    – another ff here

  35. Drew Carey has a bit about now having enough money and speeding in the rain just to get cops out of their cars.

    cop in the rain: “You know why I pulled you over?”
    drew in the car: “Yep do you know why I was speeding?”

  36. Grignr- Yeah, that seems to be the theme here. I hate speed laws more than about anyone I know, but it never occurred to me that stupid limits make it ok to endanger cops’ lives.

  37. We needan Autobahn-like lane on all highways.

  38. Wonderful soundbite! Makes me want to puke.

    “Our nation’s law enforcement professionals put their lives on the line to protect our citizens,”

    They do, sometimes. But not when they pull someone over for 10 over the limit on a mostly empty road. And the way they act, they’re bullies, not protectors.

  39. In Wyoming, this state law is on the signs at all the state borders. It doesn’t mention changing lanes, but it clearly states that you have to slow down to 20mph below the limit when passing a policeman / policecar on the side of the road.

    When driving on the Montana autobahn (in the 1990s before we instituted speed limits here) I was once cited on an interstate for reckless driving because I didn’t change lanes for a cop on the side of the road.

    Apparently in police academy, they teach the recruits that it isn’t a matter of “if” they will get sideswiped in the line of duty, it’s “when”.

  40. They do, sometimes. But not when they pull someone over for 10 over the limit on a mostly empty road. And the way they act, they’re bullies, not protectors.

    Ditto.

  41. I’m not sure what the law is in Texas, but I do know people usually slow down when they see a cop on the side of the road. I’m not sure if it’s a legal thing though. The Texas Highway Patrol tends to travel in packs. If you see one car, there’s probably two more nearby….

    Also, I’ve noticed around here (Houston to San Antonio corridor) people slow down and/or change lanes for ANY car on the side of the road. This is especially true if they are changing a tire or have their hood up and in bad weather.

  42. They do, sometimes. But not when they pull someone over for 10 over the limit on a mostly empty road. And the way they act, they’re bullies, not protectors.

    Granted. Now, why does that make it ok to place thier lives in jeopary by refusing to change lanes?

  43. Jessica – is IS the law in Texas, passed in 2003 or 2004, IIRC. Question I was asking at that time – will the fuzz get a pay reduction proportional to the reduction of risk?

  44. Granted. Now, why does that make it ok to place thier lives in jeopary by refusing to change lanes?

    It is not ok, neither ir police bullying.

  45. “ir” –> “is”

  46. I never knew it was a law, either, but I thought that was just common sense when there’s something by the side of the road.

  47. #6 “If you can’t see around the 18 wheeler, You’re too fucking close)”
    I was in the left lane passing a truck that was in the right lane. Passing requires 1. approching 2. passing. How can you avoid getting close? Slowest vehicle sets the speed limit?

  48. Some cops do bad things, therefore it’s OK to risk hitting a cop standing at a pulled-over vehicle.

    Some cops do bad things, therefore it’s ok to be an asshat on the road.

    Grignr- Yeah, that seems to be the theme here. I hate speed laws more than about anyone I know, but it never occurred to me that stupid limits make it ok to endanger cops’ lives.

    crimething, Grignr or Number 6,

    Nice rants, but how about, you know, actually citing a comment that said it’s ok to endanger a cop’s life. That would make it easier for us to distinguish the real from the imagined views you’ve made up in order to justify your desired indignation.

  49. Brian- This is simple: when you stay in the inside lane and continue to travel at speed, you make the situation more dangerous.
    Now, if people were saying that while people should move over, but there doesn’t need to be a law, that would be one thing. But that’s not the majority opinion here, is it? While no one has made the statement, “It’s ok to endanger a cop’s life” the anti-cop sentiment and snarky comments about discouraging them from writing tickets come pretty close, don’t they? Let’s not pretend the sentiment isn’t there.
    The dangerous lane change argument is almost sensible-almost. The only problem is that as a driver, it’s your responsibility to look ahead and be aware of the vehicles around you.

    Again, I’ll ask: what’s the libertarian reason for opposing these laws?

    Paco-How about situation awareness? Were you passing on a hill? If not, how did you not see the cop?

  50. It is not ok, neither ir police bullying..

    Sure, but these are two separate issues. Unless, of course, some folks here think the fact that some cops are dicks makes it ok to endanger them. But no one is saying that, are they?

  51. joe:

    In our police 😉 state (MA), there are police at every corner and construction site. We have no option but to always slow down.

    Sox doing well, though!

  52. But no one is saying that, are they?

    I can’t speak for others, but I know I do not.

  53. Brian Courts –

    Nice rants, but how about, you know, actually citing a comment that said it’s ok to endanger a cop’s life.

    Earlier Brian Courts –

    Exactly – and the risk of pulverization is at least some incentive not to pull over people. If it’s not worth the risk of getting pulverized, it’s not worth pulling someone over.

    I’m against anything that reduces the costs to cops of pulling people over.

  54. because no one wants 2 tons of steel flying by at 65 mpg a couple of feet away.

    Actually, that (65 mpg for 2 ton cars) appears to be the top agenda of the new Democratic majority in Congress (overriding more trivial things like getting the eff out of Iraq).

    OTOH, going 65 MPH (not MPG) appears to be the fondest dream of the knee-jerk cop-haters here at H&R (where the Hit and Run thing is sometimes not a metaphor).

    Standard libertarian boilerplate — overbearing cops in WoD, yadda yadda, but sometimes the civilians driving recklessly are the asshats in question.

  55. Officer Cartman said it best:

    “Respect mah authority!”

  56. While no one has made the statement, “It’s ok to endanger a cop’s life” the anti-cop sentiment and snarky comments about discouraging them from writing tickets come pretty close, don’t they?

    No they don’t. Of course there is anti-cop sentiment and of course there is snark, but what there is not, despite your, and others, statements is any implication that it is ok to intentionally risk a cop’s life.

    As for snarky comments about discouraging them from writing tickets, if you’re referring to what I said, I in no way stated or implied that it is ok to risk a cop’s life. It is just a fact that there is a risk in pulling someone over and I don’t think we need a law to try to reduce that risk since I don’t want to encourage them (too many people are pulled over as it is and the danger involved in such is caused primarily by the cops themselves as the vast majority of those pulled over were not for anything particularly unsafe to begin with).

    That most certainly does not mean I think anyone should intentionally do something risky like drive too close to a cop when he has someone pulled over. I always change lanes and move as far away as I safely can when I see a cop with someone pulled over on the side of the road.

    Let’s not pretend the sentiment isn’t there.

    The anti-cop sentiment? Of course. The “it’s ok to risk a cop’s life” sentiment? It would be “pretending” to claim anyone expressed that sentiment.

  57. Yes, Jannia, thanks for making my point.

  58. But seriously Jannia, since I know you were trying to catch me, let’s actually look at what I said:

    Exactly – and the risk of pulverization is at least some incentive not to pull over people.

    An observation about the risk/cost, from a cop’s point of view, of pulling someone over – does not say or imply that it’s ok for someone to intentionally choose to risk a cops life.

    If it’s not worth the risk of getting pulverized, it’s not worth pulling someone over.

    Simply my opinion about how serious a violation ought to be before a cop uses his authority to pull someone over. Again, it in no way says or implies that it is ok for anyone to risk his life or to be an “asshat.”

    I’m against anything that reduces the costs to cops of pulling people over.

    Yep. My general opinion based on my belief that too many people are pulled over and most of the time it is not for something truly unsafe (which makes the risk to both cop and motorist in a pull-over unjustified). This statement does not say or imply that it is ok to risk a cops life.

  59. “(where the Hit and Run thing is sometimes not a metaphor)”

    Now that’s a thread winner.

  60. Brian Courts,

    You’re contradicting yourself. On the one hand, you’re saying you don’t think it’s OK to risk a cop’s life, but on the other you’re saying that you oppose this law because it reduces the risk to cops’ lives. You can’t have it both ways.

  61. Also, Brian, I assume you agree there are at least some instances where a cop should be pulling someone over (reckless driving, stolen vehicle, fraudulent plates, etc). Do you really think that cops deserve to have their lives put at substantial risk during such stops, just so drivers don’t have to slow down for five seconds?

  62. On the one hand, you’re saying you don’t think it’s OK to risk a cop’s life, but on the other you’re saying that you oppose this law because it reduces the risk to cops’ lives. You can’t have it both ways.

    No I’m not. Look, let’s say someone proposes banning homeowners from owning guns because cops face a risk of being shot by a homeowner when they do drug raids. I can oppose that law, and oppose lessening that risk to cops lives because I think having that risk might in some small way help reduce the number of raids as any cost tends to reduce a particular behavior, in general, without saying it is ok to intentionally use that gun to risk a cops life when they come to your house accidentally.

    In other words, it’s the difference between a general principle – there is risk there and I don’t want a law to reduce it – with a specific circumstance – it is not ok to intentionally threaten someone’s life. Those are not contradictory. I can certainly oppose a law aimed at lessening a risk to cops without advocating an individual choose to pose such a risk.

    Another non-law enforcement example might be student loans. Let’s say someone proposes not allowing people to discharge them through bankruptcy (actually the law now) to reduce the risk to lenders of losing money. I can oppose that law because the natural risk of losing some loans to bankruptcy is part of the costs which help keep lenders from making larger and larger loans feeding the tuition spiral. That does not mean I would encourage any individual to intentionally default on his loan. That is still wrong even though I don’t want a law which shields lenders from that risk.

    Likewise, it is wrong to endanger a cops life, but I don’t need to support a law which seeks to lessen the risk to his life inherent in his duties.

  63. crimethink,

    I never said that I won’t change lanes and/or slow down in the future. I just wanted to point out that some of them will screw you even when you are courteous enough to obey this rarely enforced law.

  64. I can certainly oppose a law aimed at lessening a risk to cops without advocating an individual choose to pose such a risk.

    You’ve talked yourself into a pretzel, Brian. If individuals don’t choose to pose the risk, there won’t be a risk, and your intended behavior modification won’t occur. If you want cops to be worried about pulling too many cars over, you need a few roadkilled cops…and you aren’t going to get that unless people intentionally put cops at risk. So, while you may not explicitly say you want cops to get hit by cars, your argument implicitly requires this to happen.

    As for your analogies, they are inapposite. There are many, many negative side-effects that would be created by home handgun bans. That is not the case with “move over or slow down” laws.

  65. To make one thing clear right up front, even though it’s so normal, I should not have to: I always change lanes when I can for anybody on the side of the road.

    Here is the problem as I see it, borne out quite obviously by that NAPO idiot’s grandstanding quote:
    0.00001% of motorists are apparently so totally asleep at the switch that they slam full speed into something out of the travel line with a lit X-mas tree blazing blindingly. In doing that they kill or injure often not only the cop, but also the occupants of the car pulled over. The cop is doing his job, knows the risk and has every opportunity to change jobs. The motorist is sitting there because he has been foced to. What is the solution to the problem? Why, enact a law making it illegal not to change lanes in the above situation. Now the cops can get more motorists that don’t do just that, endangering more of them and themselves even though they had not been endangered by the infraction. Problem solved?
    Of course. Because that law is certainly going to make the 0.00001% stay awake, trembling in fear of getting a ticket.
    And to that NAPO idiot it’s obviously only the cops that count. Not the citizens put into danger against their will. Because, I guess, they have broken the law anyway or they would not have been pulled over, right?
    Jeeeez!

    Windypundit has first hand experience.

  66. martin,

    Speaking of being asleep at the wheel, you seem to have missed a vital part of the story:

    In effect in 40 states, the laws “require drivers approaching a police vehicle with flashing lights activated either to make an immediate lane change or to slow down at least 20 MPH under the posted speed limit.

    You don’t have to change lanes. Please stop throwing that red herring out there.

  67. That explains it — all this time I just thought most drivers were assholes, but now I see they’re just ignorant.

  68. All right crimethink. Whatever.
    Now the asleep ath the switch crowd, instead of hitting the cop and the citzen at 65, they hit them at 45. And I’m sure the difference between a lane change and a speed reduction makes a huge difference to those asleep at the switch. Which was the main point of my previous post. Got that??

  69. The idea is, martin, that if you slow down you’ll have more time to react to car doors opening, the cop moving slightly, etc, than you would if you were going the speed limit (or 15 mph above, as most people drive normally).

    And if we’re going to throw out every traffic law that won’t be obeyed by drunk or sleeping drivers, we’re going to have to get rid of all of them. Good luck on the roadways when that happens.

  70. And if we’re going to throw out every traffic law that won’t be obeyed by drunk or sleeping drivers, we’re going to have to get rid of all of them. Good luck on the roadways when that happens.

    Crimethink, I think the gist of the resistance is that we have some remaining common sense and many of our laws should be tossed. And that many of those enforcing the useless laws are equally appreciated.

    Now, I see you have a good grasp of where we’re headed, so if you’d kindly point out the law of which beer I should grab next…..

  71. perhaps I’ve had too many beers…. still more reasonable than you though…

    And if we’re going to throw out every traffic law that won’t be obeyed by drunk or sleeping drivers, we’re going to have to get rid of all of them. Good luck on the roadways when that happens.

    Crimethink, I think the gist of the resistance is that we have some remaining common sense and many of our laws should be tossed. And that many of those enforcing the useless laws are equally appreciated.

    Now, I see you have a good grasp of where we’re headed, so if you’d kindly point out the law of which beer I should grab next…..

  72. LP,

    A quick perusal of the thread so far would reveal that there are a few people who either don’t have the common sense to move over or slow down, or are simply unwilling to do so because any cop with the audacity to pull someone over deserves to become a red streak on the pavement.

  73. In short, there are two distinct arguments being made against this law: first, it’s common sense, so there’s no need to encode it into the law; and second, cops deserve to have multi-ton hunks of steel zipping by at 65+ MPH, 20 inches from their buttocks, even if they’re involved in a legitimate traffic stop.

    The fact that the second argument is being made kind of contradicts the first one, doesn’t it?

  74. Ok, I’ll humour you. Even though you still don’t address my original points: That the law doesn’t solve the problem, that it leads to more problems and that it declares one small group of people, the police, more worthy of protection than the large group supposedly employing the small one, namely the general public.

    If I park my vehicle by the side of an Interstate, open the door and a car driving in the travel lane, rips it off, whose fault is that? The moving car’s driver’s fault, because he didn’t get out of the way or my fault for stopping and opening the door improperly?
    What keeps a cop to park himself safely and/or make the guy he’s pulled over do the same?
    That ought to maximize everyone’s safety, except from those asleep at the switch, who are beyond all that. Right?

  75. …even if they’re involved in a legitimate traffic stop.

    ….and there’s the crux of the issue. In my neck of the woods HPD will assault you for anything and everything and, and they expect deference in the process.

    Fuck ’em.

  76. Crimethink, I tell you what. It’s late, I’m calling it a day. I have no expectation to convince you of anything and, besides, it won’t change the fact that we are saddled with yet another feel-good do-nothing law.I wonder how many of those we can absorb before we will all be feloniously breaking some useless statute on a daily basis. And get prosecuted for it.

  77. Do emergency response vehicles actually get to the scene of an incident any sooner with flashers and sirens than they would without them ?

    My observation is that drivers respond to this in arbitrary ways. Some pull over, some slow down, some just stop. Like most drivers though, I use common sense and do whatever is required to get out of the way, with little or no regard to traffic laws.

    My guess is that some drivers, who are sticklers for traffic laws, search their memories for what does or does not constitute a divided road, for example, rather than paying attention to the problem at hand.

    Heavy fines would seem to encourage this brain-freezing.

  78. martin,

    The law doesn’t work? Perhaps, but I think it probably makes some people move out of the lane or slow down. You’ve got no evidence for this, at least.

    The law causes problems? What problems? Again, you don’t have to change lanes, you only have to slow down.

    As for the law protecting cops but not other citizens, well, maybe you should be pushing for a law protecting everyone instead of opposing the law protecting cops.

  79. I wonder how many of those we can absorb before we will all be feloniously breaking some useless statute on a daily basis. And get prosecuted for it.

    We’re already there, check out this book from the Cato Institute

  80. I generally refer to this as the mandatory rubbernecking law. On most of the freeways in Texas, there’s too much traffic to be able to safely change lanes, and it’s only marginally safer to suddenly slow down by 20 MPH. I’m worried that people complying with this law (especially unevenly, as it’s not really common knowledge) will lead to more accidents than just leaving it to driver discretion.

    I’ve also heard of cops parked by the side of the road waiting for out-of-state cars (lights off, mind you) who then whip out and pull them over to give them a massive ticket for failing to change lanes or slow down for an emergency vehicle. It doesn’t matter that the cop didn’t have his lights on because the guy’s from out of state, so he’s unlikely to contest it, even if he knows the law.

    I understand the concept behind the law, but don’t much like the real-world implementation thereof. I’d be happier if it applied only to fire/ambulance responders, and not cops. We don’t need them creating a traffic snarl every time they write somebody a ticket, which many cops will admit is more about municipal revenue than actual traffic safety.

  81. Before I go to bed, I’d like to express a heartfelt FUCK YOU to all the ATF, police, FBI, DEA, ICE, TSA, CIA, NSA, and affiliates. Fuck you all.

  82. As martin so kindly pointed out, I have had experience with this kind of law, so I have a few thoughts.

    First of all, this law isn’t about people who recklessly injure or kill emergency workers—that’s always been a crime—it’s about people who drive too close to an emergency worker. Some of the punishments—$1000 fines and license suspensions—seem out of proportion for a crime that doesn’t actually hurt anyone or damage any property.

    Second, here in Illinois, the law covers construction vehicles, which is clearly a stretch. Construction is a planned activity, not an emergency, and it’s the responsibility of construction crews to operate in a safe manner, that’s why they have all those barricades and traffic cones. I think this is a revenue-raising tactic combined with legislative grandstanding (“Look what I did to protect construction workers!”).

    Third, every single vehicle on a piece of road increases the risk for every other vehicle. We all accept these risks when we drive, and merely being on the road does not make you responsible for an accident.

    Fourth, a vehicle on the shoulder of the road is a danger to other vehicles on the road. That’s why there are laws against parking on the shoulder except for emergencies. So, if I park my car on the shoulder to make phone call, the law says I’m in the wrong, but if a rescue worker stops on the side of the road to handle an emergency, the law says drivers in the adjacent lane are in the wrong.

    That’s almost certainly exactly the way it should be, but here’s the key point: The reason for being on the side of the road matters when we’re considering the ethics of the situation.

    Before you say that I’m arguing it’s okay to endanger cops, keep in mind that I’m not a cop, so if I stop on the shoulder, no one has to change lanes or slow down when they pass me. If I were arguing for the complete repeal of these laws (which I’m not), I would only be asking cops to accept the same risks that I do.

  83. How the fuck can 71% of Americans not know this?

    That could be your loved one in that ambulance. Get the fuck out of the way.

  84. My favorite is when police put on their flashers about 10 feet away from a red light, just to speed through a red light, and almost run into me ( as I have a green light with no warning or time to respond). Then as soon as they are through the red light they turn the flashers off. This used to happen several times on my way to work in the morning. I will give a shit when I plow through one of the bastards.

  85. I hate to get in so late but i think the only argument against such laws is the arbitrary nature of “if it’s safe to do so”. I can see citing someone who’s creating a dangerous situation by whipping past the shoulder with no one behind him or to his left, but giving a $2500.00 ticket to a person who isn’t sure if he can jam on the brakes or changes lanes in heavy traffic seems foolish.

  86. SA Miller. This isn’t about getting out of the way of an ambulance behind you. That’s a different law. This law is about vehicles stopped on the side of the road with their lights on. Most often this is police writing tickets, not ambulances or fire trucks.

  87. Congratulations to the last 2 commenters for continuing to not get the point of the article.

  88. Shit, two people got in posts before I did. SA Miller and johncjaxons the 3rd were the posters in question.

  89. In short, there are two distinct arguments being made against this law

    Here’s a third argument: anytime a cop decides to pull someone over, this law effectively closes down an entire lane of the highway. That, especially during high-traffic hours, will actually increase the chance of another accident, as everyone tries to switch lanes at the last minute.

  90. Crimethink sez: “cops deserve to have multi-ton hunks of steel zipping by at 65+ MPH, 20 inches from their buttocks”

    You damn right they do. That’s what I am paying them for.

  91. There is logic to pulling over to the side for emergency vehicles – on high-speed roads with multiple lanes and staying OFF the shoulders so the emergency vehiclescan use them. But I’ve seen people slow down and pull over which only winds up slowing down or blocking the emergency vehicles thereby causing precious seconds for the life they’re trying to save.

    In most situations the smarter thing to do is speed up. But we’re talking police logic here, you must not be helping if you aren’t personally inconvenienced.

  92. Ironically, it was exactly this action that lead to Jon Corzine’s high-speed highway crash. Had a driver not moved out of the way, and cut someone off on his way back into traffic, Corzine would’ve made it to the Imus meeting and NJ wouldn’t have gone crazy on seatbelt laws last summer.

  93. I believe the point of the law is to reinforce the concept that cops are more important humans than civilians. This is demonstrated quite easily by noting that there is no “move over” law for ordinary motorists with flat tires, engine problems, etc. Because if there was, it would create a hazardous situation for all the other motorists. And that would be intolerable. Wouldn’t it.

  94. ed may have put a late post up, but he’s the only one who seems to get the point of this law.

    We are just peons. The cops are more important than us. Once you understand that, the rationale behind all laws like this becomes crystal clear.

  95. In high traffic areas, an already saturated road instantly becomes a traffic jam when a lane is unexpectedly evacuated or when people on a 55 mph road slow down to 35 mph (35! wtf?). A traffic jam on a high use road can easily cost 200,000 people 30 minutes. At a total of 100,000 minutes, with a $30/hr rate, that’s $50,000. Even if the cop doesn’t cause any additional accidents, is it worth $50,000 for that cop to pull someone over for an improper lane change, speeding, etc., thereby paralyzing the road? And don’t tell me that wouldn’t happen — I’ve seen it on countless ocassions driving into work on 66, 495, and 395 in VA-DC. Some dumb ass cop invariably causes or worsens a traffic jam on one of those roads almost every other day.

  96. My aunt lost her license for 90 days in Illinois because of this. The cop had someone pulled over right before her exit. She was in the 2nd lane over but pulled over to the right lane in order to exit.

  97. I hate the cops, so I only slow down 17 mph. Take that!

  98. Some fair points being made about proportionality here. $1000 fines are, of course, silly. However, the junior-high “I hate the pigs!” mentality on display is unbecoming at best. While I’ll be the first to criticize speed laws (and have been), they are a separate issue.

    Also, I’d ask folks here to keep in mind that cops are not the only folks on the side of the road. EMS and fire folks have to work there, too. Usually, they’re there because someone has done something stupid, btw.

    This whole, You can’t make me move over, I DON’T WANNA” perspective baffles me. Is it really that big a problem?
    And spare me the “it’s dangerous to move over” crap. If you are paying attention, and positioned properly, changing lanes is not an issue. If all else fails, one can always just slow down.
    This is the sort of thing that makes people think libertarians are nothing but a bunch of foot-stomping toddlers screaming ‘No!.’ Some of them, as it turns out, are.

  99. And spare me the “it’s dangerous to move over” crap. If you are paying attention, and positioned properly, changing lanes is not an issue. If all else fails, one can always just slow down.

    Shutting down or seriously slowing down one lane in a highway causes traffic jams. Traffic jams cause accidents. Crap, you say? I guess I would have used the phrase “common sense,” but each to his own.

  100. I move over when I can out of common sense and courtesy. But when there’s a solid wall of semi-trailers to my left, moving over is not an option. Sorry, but my life is more important to me than risking it for a cop’s comfort margin.

  101. One more thing: slowing down abruptly from 75 to 20 in rush-hour traffic is inherently dangerous, especially when the cop is not easily or quickly noticed (around a curve or at the bottom of an overpass). Add to that scenario bumper-to-bumper traffic and nowhere to go and it’s a recipe for a pileup. I’m thinking a few recent incidents have created incentive for fewer road-cop pullovers here in congested South Florida. I’m not seeing nearly as many these days. So maybe Smokey isn’t so stupid after all.

  102. slow down at least 20 MPH under the posted speed limit.

    What an excellent way to set off a massive chain reaction accident on busy freeways everywhere.

  103. If you are paying attention, and positioned properly, changing lanes is not an issue. If all else fails, one can always just slow down.

    Comments like this make me think Captain Chaos has never been on an urban high-speed road network.

  104. Again, I’ll ask: what’s the libertarian reason for opposing these laws?

    The best reason I can think of is that they seem to contain enough ambiguities that allow traffic cops to become even more efficient “revenue generators.” In principle, sure I agree with the idea behind the laws, and getting out of the way of a pullover is common sense. But ambiguous laws are the surest path to tyranny, whether large or small.

  105. The cop had someone pulled over right before her exit. She was in the 2nd lane over but pulled over to the right lane in order to exit.

    That’s almost what happened to me. It’s kind of a crazy situation, because in theory if you want to change from the second lane to the first one, you’re now supposed to check both the lane you’re moving into and the shoulder, but seeing that far ahead on the shoulder can be impossible when you’re a lane over, especially if the road curves to put the shoulder in front of you. The law effectively discourages people from using the outside lanes at all. It’s just poor lawmaking.

  106. Then on the 1st of this month this cop bought it while citing another harmless driver (seriously, it’s a freakin’ safe tollway except for the cop problems).

    You may not be aware of this, but when a car is pulled over by a cop, quite often the need arises for the cop to stand at the driver’s window and discuss various things. On narrow-shouldered roads, this exposes the cop to getting pulverized by passing traffic if they don’t move over.

    A)In PA, I had the opportunity to learn that the cops are being trained to go to the passenger side door to speak with the driver. Which makes sense to me. From there, you can see if the driver has anything in their lap or seat, and you aren’t going to be a ‘red smear’ if the driver opens his door and pushes you into traffic, which would be my biggest fear if I was trying to bully someone on a busy interstate.

    B)I understand that giving way to prevent injury sounds like a great idea, but ed had it right. If I am changing a tire on the side of the road, I get NO special protections.
    Whereas, a Cop has:

    1)Flashing Lights, which civilians do not have.
    2)Distinctive, often reflective markings, which increase and enhance visibility
    3)The opportunity to pick and choose where and when he is on the side of the road. I have had plenty of cops tell me “move further off” or “move around this corner so we can ‘talk’.”

    So, given all these advantages, the cops still need a law to protect THEM, but not a regular civilian citizen? I would barely have any reason to oppose this set of laws if they applied to everyone, not just the (OH HE’S GONNA SAY IT!) pigs.

  107. Whassamattah wit’ you people? You don’t want cops to have sireens? That could be your bank robber he’s chasin’! Jeez!

  108. I spoze you guys’d be against a law stopping people fum drivin’ by an’ screamin’ cusses at de cop while he’s writin’ a ticket! That could make him dead if he skumbled into da lane fum distraction! Jeez!

  109. If you don’t like the law, you can always walk. It’s a free country.

  110. If you don’t like the law, you can always walk. It’s a free country.

    There are certain freeways in Dallas I would advise you not to walk down.

  111. I can’t understand what your problem is here. What is the big deal with having to move over when some lights are flashing? This post once again demonstrates how juvenile the authors on this blog are.

  112. One more thing: slowing down abruptly from 75 to 20 in rush-hour traffic is inherently dangerous,

    WTF are you talking about? You’re going 75mph in bumper to bumper traffic, in a 40mph speed zone?

    Also, there are plenty of other reasons you’d have to slow down very quickly on a highway, besides a pulled-over emergency vehicle. If that’s going to cause an accident, people are following WAY too close.

  113. “”””Our nation’s law enforcement professionals put their lives on the line to protect our citizens,””””

    That was the slogan at one time. But, it’s slowly changing to putting “your life on the line to protect their own.” Besides hasn’t everyone figured out that they are far more important to society than you. Jezzz get with the program already, this is Ammerika damn it!!
    😉

  114. This thread is surreal.

    People don’t know to offer space to people on the side of the road? I hate to invoke common sense, but geez… the only alternative is to invoke courtesy or compassion…

    Slowing down 20 mph by the time your car arrives at the most distant point on the shoulder you can see from the edge lane (i.e. spotting a cop and slowing down if a lane change isn’t appealing) rarely even requires using your brakes! If the traffic’s bumper-to-bumper, surely you’re not blazing along at 80 anyway? No one’s asking you to slam your brakes. 20-mph reductions in speed commonly occur over the course of a few hundred feet on congested freeways anyway, due to interchange backups.

    What’s with the outrageous punishments associated with the law though? Running a stop sign/light is easily lethal, but what happens then? And why special protection for gov’t only?

    I can’t believe this thread went to so many posts as it did.

  115. You think wrong, RC Dean. I just pay attention when I drive.

  116. Well said, Ventifact.
    Of course, if you hang around here long enough, you’ll read posts explaining that it’s perfectly ok to drive drunk as long as you don’t wreck.

  117. I don’t care if someone has a .1 BAC, as long as he doesn’t wreck.

  118. this is absolutely senseless:

    As for the law protecting cops but not other citizens, well, maybe you should be pushing for a law protecting everyone instead of opposing the law protecting cops.

    You exercise caution when passing a motorist be it a cop or a citizen because hitting that person will create a tort against you. That is impetus enough to exercise caution for most people, but regardless, neither the common law nor your Authoritarian impulses written triplicate in code will create a perfect society where carelessness doesn’t occur.

    This law is unnecessary and unnecessary laws create cynicism against the system. What we object to is the special treatment of cops that is now being routinely codified. Jeez, some of you who obviously, and amazingly enough, have never had a personal run in with a corrupt cop will excuse anything. I suspect when the time comes that Officer Fido is allowed to drive, you will excuse that as well.

  119. Ah, another person who simultaneously thinks (a) there’s no need for this law since common courtesy dictates that you should move over, and (b) those durn corrupt cops deserve to get hit.

  120. Ah, another person who simultaneously thinks (a) there’s no need for this law since common courtesy dictates that you should move over, and (b) those durn corrupt cops deserve to get hit.

    Don’t try to bait me with asinine stupidity. Don’t pretend that you do not comprehend the common law of these United States that have been the means to deal with problems such as these and do so effectively.

    What you are not admitting is your preference for an authoritarian, strong handed, version of a lawful society instead of the one granted to us by our forefathers. All I can say is be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.

  121. Wow, alan, you really got me there.

    Authoritarian, strong handed, not granted to us by our forefathers…my nipples are getting hard!

    Anyway, do you care to show how the two points you made above are not mutually contradictory?

  122. For a thinker called “crime-“… (Drink!) 😉

    (a) there’s no need for this law since common courtesy dictates that you should move over

    : (a prime) there’s no need for a law prohibiting strangers from overreacting to the obnoxious behavior of other people’s children (OPC) on supermarket checkout lines by making ugly faces at them, since common courtesy dictates that you should to at least some degree indulge the immaturity of even obnoxious children

    and

    b) those durn corrupt cops deserve to get hit

    : (b prime) those durn obnoxious children deserve to be made uncomfortable as a consequence of provoking strangers in public, and since their parents are neglecting their duty, I guess it falls to me

    Actually, I just wanted a reason, as it were, to invoke your name in the drinking game. I will probably leave this discussion to my betters.

  123. Making ugly faces at children does not result in their entrails being spread out across 50 ft of pavement, M. Other than that, the analogy is totally appropriate.

  124. Details, details. 😉

  125. I thought everyone knew this? Its like one of the few traffic laws I follow religiously. And its not just cops – but ambulances and other lighted emergency vehicles too – but tow trucks can f-off.

  126. I just got pulled over today in IN. There was a cop on the left (standing outside with radar gun) of a two lane HWY and one on the right with his lights on, but no other car… no one pulled over, etc. Still wondering what his emergency was to be sitting alone with lights on! Can we say T-R-A-P?? Needless to say, I’m FURIOUS!!

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