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Indiana Law Tells Drivers to Move Over

April 21, 2017 In the News

emergency vehicleIt is difficult to remember, particularly when you’re gliding along the highway, that the comfy car in which you’re enjoying a coffee and an incensed rant from your favorite talk-radio host is also a two-ton killing machine. Not necessarily, of course, and not in the best circumstances, but one time in particular that drivers need to be acutely aware of their awesome power is when others have lost it—like when a car is stalled alongside the road, a speeding driver has been pulled over, or emergency personnel are attending to an accident.

You probably already take greater caution in these situations, and if so, we commend you—as well as your driving instructor. You should note that your greater care is also the law. In Indiana, “Move Over” laws require drivers to do just that when emergency vehicles are stopped with lights flashing. That includes:

  • Police vehicles
  • Ambulances
  • Fire and rescue equipment
  • Highway incident-response vehicles
  • Utility service vehicles
  • Tow trucks

When you see any of the above along the roadside, your first best option is to merge left so that there’s an open lane between you and the vehicle. If you’re unable to get over, slooooooow dooooooown. The law requires that you drive no more than ten miles per hour under the speed limit while approaching and passing a stopped vehicle. You can be fined for failing to take these precautions, and if you harm an emergency worker or vehicle, your license can be suspended.

You can take a look at the law itself here. It exists to make an inherently unsafe situation less dangerous. If you’ve ever had to do it, you know exactly how nerve-wracking it is to stand or even sit in your car near a highway with a steady stream of cars zooming past. It’s no surprise that accidents result, as in the very recent example wherein a man was struck and killed by a semi while he changed a tire along I-70.

If you’re looking at the letter of the law, you’ll note that it doesn’t apply to non-emergency vehicles. That doesn’t mean you can ignore the lady in the stalled convertible or the couple stopping to rescue a toddler’s tossed toy. Case law in Indiana has established that drivers must use “due care” to avoid a collision, especially when circumstances make another driver vulnerable. So even though the code does not specifically tell you that you must change lanes for all stopped vehicles, failing to do so can leave you vulnerable if anything goes wrong. So why risk it?

If you do remember your driver’s manual, you’ll know that it advises you change lanes for any vehicle stopped on the side of the road. You may have to interrupt that satisfying highway flow for a moment, but you’re a lot less likely to end up with a fine or in a turn of events that’s much, much worse.

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