Move Over Or Slow Down — the wording is important

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.

An almost perfect sign in New York State. The safest advice is ‘Move Over or Slow Down.’ See the article for a full explanation. (Copyright image, 2019.)

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.

So the safest advice is:  Move Over OR Slow Down

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.

A state police trooper emerging from his unmarked SUV to deal with a speeder he had just stopped. Clearly, the officer is at significant risk from drivers who pay no attention and fail to comply with the ‘Move Over or Slow Down laws’. (Copyright image, 2019.)

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.

One of the most dangerous scenarios when passing static vehicles.   (Copyright photo, 2014.)

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.
A state trooper almost invisible on the roadside as he conducts a traffic stop at night.
At night or in bad weather, the ‘move over law’ is even more critical, when officers or vehicle operators can be extremely difficult to see, especially when the flashing lights are so bright that they dazzle! Move over safely and in plenty of time, before you get anywhere near. (Copyright image, 2017.)

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.

__________

Please be aware that this website is registered with the United States Copyright Office and that punitive legal action for damages may be taken against anyone who breaches our copyright. This, however, does not stop you from posting links to any of our pages, and you are welcome to do so.

Automatic Emergency Braking on Large Trucks

Given the number of tragic crashes that occur when truck drivers are not paying attention, and the horrifying number of people who die as a result, I think this technology should be made compulsory as quickly as possible, in all countries.

Meanwhile, if you happen to be stuck in traffic and see a large truck coming up behind you too fast, it’s time for prayers.

TIP:  This is also a good reason to be in the lane next to the shoulder in a traffic jam so that you have a potential, last-ditch escape route — it could be vastly more important than trying to save a few minutes off your journey time!

Late Lane-Changes to Exit from Highways are Dangerous!

Sadly, it is very common here in the  N.E. USA, to see selfish drivers deliberately stay out in the middle- or left-lanes of a highway until they are alongside the exit they require then veer or even swerve sharply  across the right-hand lane(s) to exit, right across the front of vehicles being driven correctly and safely.

Exit 28A on I-95, Massachusetts, showing at least three separate skid marks, almost certainly caused by a driver staying to the left, all the way to the exit, then swerving right to leave, or by drivers who were so distracted they nearly missed the exit, even from the right-hand lane. Terrible driving!

Continue reading “Late Lane-Changes to Exit from Highways are Dangerous!”