Advertisement

Move Over Laws in the West

Protect first responders and avoid an expensive ticket.

Many states require drivers to move lanes or slow to well below the speed limit when passing a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights.

Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

While you know to pull over and give emergency vehicles the right of way when they are driving with their lights flashing or sirens blaring, do you know what to do when an ambulance, fire truck, police car, or highway maintenance vehicle is stopped on the road or shoulder?

So called "Move Over" laws are intended to protect first responders and workers on roadways. “Every year, highway workers, law enforcement officers, emergency personnel, and tow truck drivers are killed or injured along California’s roadways,” said Bob Franzoia, the former acting Caltrans director. “Californians can help keep workers safe by slowing down in work zones, complying with the ‘Move Over’ law, and always being work-zone alert.”

Despite move over laws being enacted in all 50 states, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 71 percent of Americans are unaware that drivers are required to reduce their speed and switch lanes to protect workers.

While the laws differ by state, the basic principle remains the same: Change lanes or slow well under the speed limit when passing emergency medical service crews, tow truck operators, police officers, or firefighters working on the side of the road. Many states have also expanded their laws to cover other vehicles, such as utility and waste collection fleets, and any disabled vehicle on the side of the road.

Arizona

State law requires drivers to reduce speed and, if safe to do so, vacate the lane closest to any stationary vehicles with flashing or warning lights, including emergency vehicles and tow trucks.

California's "Move Over" law extend to include waste disposal vehicles.

Bill Morson / Shutterstock

California

State law requires drivers to slow down and vacate the lane closest to a stationary emergency response vehicle flashing emergency lights, if safe to do so. This includes tow trucks and Caltrans vehicles if displaying flashing amber warning lights, as well as waste service vehicles. Failure to obey can result in points on your driving record and a fine up to $1,000.

Idaho

State law requires drivers traveling in the same direction to slow below the posted speed limit and vacate the lane closest to a stationary emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights, if safe to do so. This includes tow trucks, wreckers, other recovery vehicles, and municipal vehicles.

Montana

State law requires drivers approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights—including towing and recovery vehicles—traveling in the same direction to vacate the lane closest if safe and possible to do so, or slow to a safe speed. If on a highway with a speed limit of 50 mph or greater, the driver must slow by at least 20 mph below the posted speed limit.

Most "Move Over" laws include road maintenance vehicles and workers.

Philip Lange / Shutterstock

Nevada

State law requires drivers traveling in the same direction to reduce speed below the posted speed limit and, if safe and possible to do so, vacate the lane closest to stationary emergency vehicles and tow vehicles displaying flashing lights.

Oregon

State law requires drivers approaching any stationary vehicle displaying warning or flashing lights—including roadside assistance and tow vehicles—traveling in the same direction to vacate the lane closest, if safe and possible to do so, or to reduce speed to at least 5 mph under the posted speed limit.

Utah

State law requires drivers approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck, or highway maintenance vehicle displaying flashing lights and traveling in the same direction to reduce speed and, if safe to do so, vacate the lane closest to stationary vehicles.

Washington

State law requires drivers to vacate the lane closest to stationary emergency vehicles, including tow trucks, if they are traveling in the same direction and it is safe to do so. If not, drivers are required to reduce the speed of the vehicle to at least 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. Also included in the law are stationary or slow moving municipal, utility, and road maintenance vehicles.

Wyoming

State law requires drivers approaching an official stationary emergency vehicle making use of appropriate visual signals, including tow trucks, to merge into the lane farthest from the vehicle when traveling in the same direction, if safe to do so, or to slow to a speed that is 20 mph less than the posted speed limit. Also included in the law are municipal, utility, and road maintenance vehicles.

Smart Tip: When safe and possible to do so, move over a lane for any vehicle stopped on the shoulder to ensure a safe passing distance.

Get legendary road service—and so much more—for as little as $56 a year.