What is Georgia’s Move Over Law?
All 50 states enforce some version of a move-over law. In Georgia, its Move Over Law was enacted in 2003 by the General Assembly for the safety of first responders and DOT workers responding to issues occurring adjacent to, but outside of, a traffic lane. In the 2015-2016 session of the General Assembly, utility linemen were added as responders and a protected class under the Move Over Law.
This blog will advise of the particulars of this law, and the possible consequences should it be violated.
It is safe to say that most Georgia residents know of the Move Over Law, and their belief is that this law pertains to first responders on highways. This is only partially correct.
All drivers on Georgia’s roads are required to move over one lane when approaching an emergency, utility, or DOT vehicle and HERO units on the shoulder or on the roadside in response to official duty.
The vehicle types that are protected under Georgia’s Move Over Law are:
- First responder vehicles (police, ambulance, fire, EMT)
- Tow trucks or other recovery vehicles
- Utility trucks
- DOT vehicles
- Maintenance trucks
A driver will know if these vehicles are responding to an official duty by flashing lights. These lights do not have to be red or blue; the lights can be amber, yellow or white. The Move Over Law will apply. It is the responsibility of these responders to display the flashing lights while on the shoulder or on the roadside abutting the traffic lanes.
The Drivers’ Responsibilities
The drivers of all motor vehicles traveling in the lane adjacent to the stopped responder vehicle must move at least one lane over to accommodate the vehicles and the passenger in any vehicle that may have been pulled over. The Move Over Law is for their safety, as well.
The drivers’ requirement to move over is mitigated if the conditions are not safe to do so. An example would be the free-flowing traffic in the next lane that would render a lane change unsafe, or the oncoming traffic on a two-lane road. In these instances, the approaching drivers must slow down to a speed that is safe and must be prepared to stop. Both of these requirements must be met for the driver to comply with the Move Over Law if a lane change cannot be made.
Another exception would be the presence of a peace officer directing traffic to do otherwise. In this instance, a peace officer is a person who is properly vested (wearing a vest) by either law or public service employment to secure safety at the scene.
In Georgia, violating the Move Over Law is taken seriously. Law enforcement officers will work hard to catch and ticket drivers who are deemed negligent or who ignore the law intentionally. The penalties will be a fine of up to $500 and 3 points assessed to the driver’s record.
The above penalties assume no injuries. Should any injury result from the violation of a Move Over Law, then the worlds of personal injury claims and damages under civil law, as well as charges under criminal law, will apply.
In addition, the “up to $500” gives the court leeway and some flexibility as to the amount of the penalty. The penalty cannot be more than $500, again, assuming no injuries or damages. This fine is a state fine, and there is nothing to prevent a city or a local jurisdiction of imposing additional fines and other charges at the local level. There could also be additional fines and charges depending on the driver’s record immediately prior to this misdemeanor infraction.
Georgia’s Move Over Law is more than moving over for first responders. This once-obscure law has been the subject of public awareness and service announcement campaigns for over a decade.
The public employees work hard to keep the residents of Georgia safe. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the residents to keep these responders safe as they work to do so.