Around the USA, most states have legislation for which the name is typically shortened to the ‘Move Over Law,’ but some states then go on to give bad advice that is potentially unsafe.
For example “slow down and move over” is inviting extra danger yet some states do use that wording in their advice.
Anytime a driver has to change lanes on a multi-lane highway, it is naturally important to ensure there are no faster-moving vehicles catching up in the lane you wish to move into. In that one sentence is found the logic behind the correct wording for this scenario.
If a driver slows down and then tries to change lanes, it is quite possible they will have created an unsafe situation in relation to vehicles catching up from behind. If a lane-change is necessary, as it is under the Move Over laws, then if it is safely possible it is wise to maintain speed and then do a safe lane change.
If it is not safe or possible to make a lane-change then it is imperative for drivers in the lane nearest the static vehicle/s to slow down significantly. Some states, for example, require that under these circumstances a vehicle must be doing at least 20mph below the posted speed limit when it passes the static vehicle/s, but this varies and you should check what the law says in your state.
This, too, requires care because of any vehicles in the same lane, behind yours. If you brake quickly then you might trigger being hit from behind. This is why it is so important to always leave plenty of space between your car and the vehicle ahead. In turn, this makes it easier for you to see further ahead, see the static vehicle/s sooner, and plan your own actions sooner, without rush or panic.
Any emergency, recovery, or road maintenance vehicle with its lights flashing must be treated in this manner, but a good driver will do the same for any static vehicle, such as a broken down car.
So please remember, unless circumstances genuinely prevent it, the safest sequence is:
- Make sure you maintain a good view ahead at all times by always maintaining a safe following distance;
- Whenever you see a static vehicle, check immediately to see whether the adjacent lane is clear, then signal when it is safe to do so, in that order (so that you don’t frighten another driver potentially into swerving away from you);
- Change lanes when safe to do so, preferably without slowing down first and thereby increasing danger from behind;
- If you cannot safely change lanes to put an empty lane between your car and the static vehicle/s then you must slow down as described above.
- Watch very carefully indeed for any pedestrian activity near the static vehicle/s because there are occasions when someone might unexpectedly step into what is now hopefully the empty lane, and it is our responsibility as drivers to keep those people as safe as we possibly can;
- Be particularly careful in the dark or during bad weather when visibility or tire-grip might be affected.
On roads with only one lane in each direction, the normal ‘move over’ component is often not possible but if there is a good, safe view ahead and it is legal to do so, a good driver will create space by at least partially crossing the central, dotted yellow line to keep away from a static emergency vehicle with its lights flashing. Whether or not that can be done, it is more than ever essential to slow down significantly under these circumstances.
At Advanced Drivers of North America, the ‘Move Over Laws’ and ‘Safe Following Distances’ are just two of over 300 important safety techniques we teach on our unmatched defensive- and advanced-driving courses. For more information, please Contact Us.
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