The Virginia Senate and House of Delegates has overwhelmingly passed SB982/HB1932 and Governor Glenn Youngkin has signed into law an important expansion of the state’s Move Over law that will help save lives.
The change, proposed and supported by AAA, extends protections to any stationary vehicle displaying hazard lights, warning signs (like an emergency triangle) or flares.
Currently, drivers are only required to make a lane change and proceed with caution, if possible, when passing emergency vehicles and law enforcement vehicles displaying red or blue flashing lights, and utility, tow and roadside assistance trucks (like those used by AAA for Emergency Roadside Service) displaying amber flashing lights on the roadside. The amendment to the law goes into effect on July 1, 2023. A violation of the new provision to the law is punishable as a traffic infraction.
“This is a great common sense update to the law that will encourage drivers to slow down and move over to protect all who are along our roadways,” says AAA Mid-Atlantic Public and Government Affairs Manager Morgan Dean. “Whether it’s a mechanical problem, a flat tire or a medical emergency, the danger on the roadside starts the moment that vehicle pulls onto the shoulder. We want to make sure everyone in, around, or beside that vehicle is as safe as possible and has the room they need to take care of whatever issue they’re having.”
Between 2016 and 2020, 28 people were killed in crashes in Virginia while outside of a disabled vehicle. According to a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 300 pedestrians are killed nationwide each year while leaving, working on, or returning to a stopped vehicle along the road. That number is up 25% since 2014.
Last July, 49 year old Angela Hurley of Mechanicsville was killed on the roadside on Interstate 95 near Ashland. Police say she was inside of her disabled vehicle on the shoulder awaiting help when another driver moved onto the shoulder and struck her car, killing her. She leaves behind a young son and a heartbroken family.
“She did not deserve to die on the side of the road, scared – needing help,” says Latane Flanagan, Angela’s sister. “Extending courtesy, by way of moving over and slowing down, to those who are disabled along the road, will impact our state for the better. Thank you AAA, lawmakers and those families who have lost a loved one, for encouraging safer highways. Angela’s big personality moved many people, on Earth and now in Heaven.”
In a 2021 AAA poll of drivers in Virginia, 91% said they would support Slow Down Move Over laws that protect people whose vehicles are disabled on the side of the road. AAA thanks Senator David Marsden and Delegate Chris Runion for carrying the legislation this session. The measure found wide, bi-partisan support in both chambers of the General Assembly.
“This law will protect thousands of Virginians every year by expanding the Move Over requirement to include all disabled vehicles on the side of the road.” says Senator David Marsden (D-Fairfax). “Let’s treat everybody’s safety equally in these potentially dangerous roadside situations.”
“We were pleased to work with AAA on this important highway safety bill. We continue to engage motorists on the importance of protecting everyone on the highway: public safety officers, tow truck drivers, and fellow motorists. It is my honor to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth that rely on Interstate 81, and I am happy to pass legislation that will protect drivers between the moment their vehicle becomes disabled and the moment the tow truck arrives.” says Delegate Chris Runion (R-Bridgewater). “We look forward to continuing to partner with AAA to keep our highways and roadways safe.”
Despite every state in the country having some form of Move Over law, drivers routinely indicate that they are either unaware of state laws that require them to slow down and move over for emergency vehicles or they are uncertain which types of vehicles apply. A AAA Poll of Virginia drivers conducted in 2021 found that 28% of Virginia drivers believed a ‘Slow Down Move Over’ law didn’t exist or were unsure of its existence, but that 97% of drivers believe it is very dangerous or somewhat dangerous for roadside workers if drivers don’t slow down and move over.
“This update to the law simplifies things, reducing confusion about when a driver needs to move over,” says Dean. “The caution would be extended to all vehicles on the side of the road with flashing hazard lights, warning signs or flares.“