For first responders, including police, fire, EMTs, and even tow truck drivers and trash collectors, high stress is a major part of the job. And when they have to wrk in traffic, that stress can spike even higher than usual. And while they do their best to keep an eye on the other drivers on the road, there is a lot to worry about, and mistakes can be made.
That is the impetus behind an update to the Texas “Move Over/Slow Down” law, which officially took effect on Sept. 1, 2019. The update to this very important road safety law, first passed in 2003, adds utility service vehicles to the list of vehicles for which all other drivers must either move one land to the left or slow down to a minimum speed when passing.
Keeping First Responders and Road Workers Safer
In the 16 years since its passage, the Move Over/ Slow Down driving law has required that drivers do this as they approach emergency vehicles, TxDOT vehicles and towing vehicles when they see them stopped on the side of the road with warning lights activated. Now, the list of vehicles includes utility service vehicles that are stopped on the side of the road as they attempt to restore power. IN addition, drivers must behave the same behavior when solid waste collection trucks and garbage trucks are stopped on the side of the road, and doing their job.
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.
The Move Over/Slow Down law requires drivers who are operating on multi-lane roadways to merge away from a vehicle working on the side of the road. The purpose, of course, is to provide an empty lane as a way to keep workers safe. If merging that far isn’t possible or practical, drivers must reduce their speed to at least 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limits, even on highways. If the posted speed limit is below 25, drivers should slow to 5 miles per hour.
Not Moving Over or Slowing Down Can Cost You
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 just through October of that year.
Several times in the last several years, DPS and other police agencies in Texas have chosen to crack down on this law, and more crackdowns are planned for the future. First responders risk their lives every day and, 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 it. DPS has issued a warning regarding the recent expansion of the law and they urge all drivers to be courteous to all of their fellow drivers who find themselves stopped on the side of the road, so that we alll do our part to make sure everyone gets home safely.