We have all been driving down Texas roads and seen first responders (police, fire, or EMT’s) and tow truck drivers along the side of the road rendering assistance. Working on the side of the road in heavy traffic is a major part of their job. Every year, dozens of first responders are hurt or killed by passerby drivers as they are performing their jobs roadside. Working along the side of the road places them in very vulnerable positions for incurring injuries while helping in emergency or work related situations. This is what makes the move over/slow down law so important.
On September 1st 2019, Texas made an update to the “Move Over/Slow Down Law. This is a very important update to a law that was created in 2003. This update adds utility service works to the list of vehicles that you must move over one lane for or slow down for. Following the law not only will help protect others as well as avoid hefty fines but will also prevent you from being in a tragic car wreck.
The Move Over/ Slow Down Law
In 2003 The Move Over/Slow Down law was passed and signed into law to protect fire, ambulance, and police workers. It was created to keep them safe as they provide services to help motorists and others on the roads. This law requires drivers to merge into a different lane on multi lane roadways to provide safety for workers. If merging that far over isn’t possible or practical, drivers must reduce their speed to at least 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limits. If the posted speed limit is below 25, drivers should slow down to 5 miles per hour.
In 2013 this law was updated to provide protection for Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) workers.
As of September 1st, 2019, the law has been further expanded to include utility service vehicles, solid waste collection trucks and garbage trucks. The Texas legislature added these vehicles to the list of vehicles entitled to protection after safety issues were identified during the extensive restoration work needed after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Not Moving Over or Slowing Down Penalties
The Move Over/Slow Down law is enforceable by police. The penalties for violating this law can be pretty steep. Texas motorists who violate this law can be fined $200, although the fine climbs to $500 if there is any property damage. If the driver also causes bodily injury, they can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and receive jail time and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
More people need to become aware of this law, to save lives and make the roads safer for those who work on or near it. According to the Department of Public Safety (DPS), in 2017, more than 10,650 warnings and citations were issued to drivers who violated the Move Over/Slow Down law. However, in 2018, DPS issued more than 35,000 warnings and citations.
Over the last year, police have ramped up their efforts to enforce the law. First responders risk their lives every day. Like every other worker in Texas, they have the right to the safest possible workplace. Given the number of vehicle crashes that occur every day across the state, and the number of tickets and warnings that are still being issued for violation of this Move Over/Slow Down law, too many Texans are either unaware of the law or choose to ignore the law. A statewide campaign continues to educate the public about the law. Overhead signs on highways are utilized to remind drivers to move over and slow down for emergency vehicles. The goal is to prevent accidents and injuries by making drivers more aware of properly yielding in situations involving emergency services and road work. In addition, there are also radio announcements, posters, and press materials that bring awareness of these matters to the public.
Accidents can happen at any time. If you get stranded on the side of the road, remain in your vehicle and call for assistance. Remember, the life you save may be your own.