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Do "Move Over" laws cause as many incidents as they prevent?

In the last few years, many states have passed laws requiring drivers to either move over or slow down when passing cars or road work or pulled over vehicles in the emergency or breakdown lane. In concept, a good idea; it gives road crews, law enforcement, or someone changing a tire a little more margin of safety. In practice what I see too many times is drivers thinking that their only option is to “move over,” many times right in front of or nearly running into others. I saw this happen today and have seen it happen many other times as well.
What has been your experiences with this law, if it’s in your state? If you have an article or paper on the topic, please include a link if you have one at hand.

My state, Florida, also has this law and it makes people punch the brakes and change lanes from the right to the middle without looking. In heavy traffic it takes a severe toll, causing wrecks usually with multiple cars. No one would ever admit that it is the fault of “low and pull over” laws.

It’s not the fault of the laws, it’s the brainless drivers who never even gave a thought to what to do in an emergency, besides slam on the brakes.


Yup. Idiots will idiot. If the law didn’t exist then the idiots would blow past the guys on the side of the road at 20 over and hit one of 'em.


The law is good, the only problem I have is this situation:

Three lane highway with a lane ahead is closed due to construction. A cop is sitting in the lane just before the closure with his lights blinking to warn drivers.

But if you take the law as it stands, you have to move over two lanes so the 3 lane highway is reduced to one lane. Of course no one does this.

I agree these laws are at least as bad as they are good, partly because of the shocking number of drivers who seem to think others should somehow anticipate their lane changes.

In Minnesota we haven’t had any highway patrol hit by driver in the left lane, so that’s a good thing. The thing is when you see the flashing lights both lanes need to be aware an let people move over. I have had instances where folks in the left lane just sit there blocking me so I can’t move over. I’m not going to say which state most of them are from.

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Reading the above responses, it sounds like either the law is written differently in other states or it’s still misunderstood. In Tennessee, you move over only if it is safe to do so. If it’s not safe to move over, all you are required to do is slow down.

What I’ve seen on a number of occasions is drivers moving over when there really is not enough space, causing many others to take evasive action, when simply lifting off the gas is all that is needed. Thankfully, I’ve not seen an accident - yet.

In my mind, “safe to move over” means there is A LOT of space - like 10 car lengths. And slowing down means slowing down 5 mph or less, especially if you’re in a group.

The law has a good intent. Implementation has had a lot of unintended consequences, however.

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The situation seems to be caused by a conflict between timid and aggressive drivers and the “move over” laws support the aggressive drivers. It’s ironic that the timid often remain in the ‘passing’ lane because if they move to the right the aggressive drivers will rarely allow them back to the left when they find themselves behind even slower traffic. That situation seems quite obvious to me.

edit- but I do realize that those timid drivers feel they should be able to signal a move to the left as they continue at their 5mph under the posted limit and expect traffic approaching at 10mph over to immediately slow to allow them to move over and pass in a snail race.

In Maryland, drivers must slow down for emergency vehicles with their emergency lights on, or pull into the next lane away from the incident. The speed is not specified if you have to stay in the lane, but I’ve heard about 10 mph below the posted speed limit. Around here, the only time you find 10 car length separation is about 2am. The best we can hope for here is about 5 car lengths. I pull over if I can, but I won’t if it is dangerous. If I have to slow from 65 in a 55 zone to 45, it might cost me 20 seconds or so. People that can’t handle that have a problem they need to address.

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And, in addition to the reality that so many people seem to care very little about how their driving impacts (no pun intended) others, we have another reality, namely that all-too-many drivers don’t look very far ahead on the highway, and are then… taken by surprise… by circumstances that they should have seen far earlier than when they finally became aware of it.

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Another situation where one law with good intention can cause a situation:

In Connecticut, a motorist is required to leave 5 feet between his/her car and a bicyclist, when passing the bicycle.
I frequently have drivers crossing the double yellow line on two lane roads, coming into my lane where they clearly would have had ten feet without even moving over.

Laws should consider the behavior of those affected. These laws are not well written nor well understood by many drivers.

I agree with the laws in principle and I have the capacity to easily follow them but many don’t. The unintended consequence of these laws is exposing that many drivers don’t look ahead, don’t properly change lanes and really have no clue how to drive.

How do we change the law to maintain the safety of law enforcement at the side of the road while recognizing the limitations of the clueless drivers? After all, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Laws assume the “reasonable person” when they are written. They are generally written by committees that are made up of reasonably intelligent, reasonably literate people who have a lot of agendas. What comes out isn’t always pretty, and over many years of human buffoonery all the mistakes, oversights and assumptions show up. That’s why we have courts - to try to iron out all those wrinkles. It ain’t easy.

And the average IQ is 100, so half the population is lower than that, and poorly thought out behavior is completely normal. “Reasonable” turns out to be pretty unreasonable.


Travelling down the IQ road will not explain the negative behavior. Some of the worst drivers I’ve ever ridden with had PhD’s, MD’s or JD’s - not exactly the sub-100 IQ group. There are studies that suggest that lower IQ drivers may be better drivers. The courts don’t need to iron out any wrinkles here because the law is very clear. It is a matter of human behavior.

OK, let’s focus on how the various groups (my choice of groups) are affected.

Group 1) Looks far ahead, anticipates well, can lane change seamlessly - These folks are not affected by the laws because they are not a risk.

Group 2) Is generally a decent driver, doesn’t anticipate others, generally looks ahead and can get out of the way of trouble without causing more - These folks might be affected by the laws as reminded by road signs. These are the drivers on which the law may have some affect but they are fairly low risk drivers to begin with.

Group 3) Generally distracted, looks ahead 25 feet, texting while driving, yakking on the phone, wandering out of their lane (Bots Dots should tell them this, at least in Florida, home of the Ray Charles Driving School) - These are the folks that are affected by the by the law in a negative fashion in so much as they are the very folks were are complaining about and would be most likely to cause a wreck or injure roadside workers.

The law has no affect on group 1, a positive affect on group 2 and a negative affect on the 3rd group. The law is in place, so these folks can be ticketed, if there is another officer in the area. If they cause a wreck, they would have been cited under existing laws. I don’t see these laws as a solution to anything.

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Start ticketing those that do not follow the rules. Word gets around, even among the Densa membership…


That is the usual procedure but has anyone here ever seen extra enforcement on the scene to actually accomplish this? Especially in high traffic areas that have the largest affect.

That’s a real question, not a rhetorical one, I’d like to hear from the posters. I personally have not seen a “sting” set up to enforce that.

I haven’t even seen any of the millions of gray or white cars that always seem to ignore the “lights on in rain” laws in many states pulled over either! :roll_eyes:

My personal opinion is that the ’ move over law ’ causes very few accidents. I do feel it has prevented some injuries or worse. I did see one person pulled over after they passed an officer with a stopped car. As for doing stings for that I doubt it.

There’s a little bit more to it. If the drive is going substantially over the speed limit, he may only be able to slow to the speed limit even when braking heavily. These guys also come upon emergency vehicles much faster than the rest of us. They change lanes seamlessly because they have a lot of practice. They anticipate reasonably well because they haven’t killed themselves yet. These 90 mph wonders are much more likely to get themselves in a bind because the difference in speed is so great. They may not be able to bail out to the next lane over when they try to pass traffic in the outboard lanes. I don’t think they fit into any of the three categories you list. Can we add one?

Yes we can add one! That is a driver type I see pretty frequently that I forgot. They generally seem quite a bit more aware that groups 2 or 3 but the speed makes them a hazard, as you so effectively explain.

Call 'em group 4. That’s a group easy for law enforcement to target. Lots of broken laws there!