Motorists Reminded About ‘Move Over’ Laws

The South Carolina Highway Patrol has joined in an effort with four other Southeastern states to remind the public about the “Emergency Scenes” law designed to protect law enforcement and other first responders while they are at work on the roadways. From November 6-12, troopers from Alabama , Georgia , Florida , Tennessee and South Carolina will emphasize the Move Over law through enforcement and education efforts.

“This law is very simple. If you see flashing lights and an emergency scene ahead, you need to reduce your speed and safely change lanes away from the emergency vehicles to provide a cushion of protection for those working at the scene,” said Highway Patrol Col. Kenny Lancaster Jr.  “Even though this law is specifically geared toward first responders, everyone benefits including the motorists receiving assistance.”

South Carolina law Section 56-5-1538 defines an emergency scene as “a location designated by the potential need to provide emergency medical care.”  It is identified by emergency vehicles with flashing lights, rescue equipment, or emergency personnel on scene. South Carolina ’s “Move Over” law also provides protection for highway workers.  Section 56-5-1536 also requires motorists to “move over” into an adjacent lane whenever possible when passing temporary work zones.  A temporary work zone is defined as “an area on a roadway identified by orange work zone signs or equipment with flashing lights, and the presence of workers on the scene.”

SCDPS and SCDOT combined resources in 2009 to address this issue through the two public service announcements. The PSAs may be viewed at: (click on Move Over icon). Additionally, SCDOT placed highway signs on roadways around the state saying “Move Over Or Reduce Speed For Stopped Emergency Vehicles.”

According to a national poll by Mason Dixon Polling & Research, sponsored by the National Safety Commission, 71 percent of Americans have not heard of “Move Over” laws. Incidents in which workers are struck while working at the scene of a collision, traffic stop or in work zones continue in South Carolina and nationwide. More than 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed since 1999 after being struck by vehicles along America ‘s highways, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Drivers approaching a temporary work zone or an emergency scene are required by law to:

  • Keep their vehicle under control
  • Proceed with due caution
  • Significantly reduce vehicle speed
  • Change lanes if at all possible to allow room for responders to work safely
  • Maintain safe speed for road conditions if changing lanes is impossible or unsafe.

Endangering temporary work zone or emergency personnel is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $500.  Obeying this little-known law can save a life and prevent injury.

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