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Move Over Law in North Carolina

Motorists who do not comply with North Carolina’s “Move Over” law requiring drivers to change lanes or slow down when approaching roadside emergency responders should know that the penalty for violating this traffic law increased significantly as of December 1, 2019, if a violation causes a serious accident.

The Move Over law requires motorists on multi-lane highways to move over one lane cautiously when approaching emergency response or maintenance vehicles stopped on the side of the road with lights flashing. If it is a two-lane highway, motorists must slow down safely. The idea is to create a greater margin of safety for emergency responders.

Violating the law is punishable by a $250 fine, plus court costs. If the violation leads to an accident that causes property damage or injury, the driver could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor and subjected to a $500 fine. A Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina carries a maximum penalty of 120 days in jail.

Revisions to the law make it a Class F felony if a driver fails to move over or slow down and causes serious injury or death to a law enforcement officer, a firefighter, an emergency vehicle operator or utility worker covered by the statute. A Class F felony in North Carolina is punishable by 10 to 41 months (3 years, 5 months) in prison. It was formerly a Class I felony, punishable by 3 to 12 months in prison.

The law also limits the use of flashing or strobing amber lights to emergency, utility and other authorized vehicles. Another law prohibits red and blue lights in private vehicles.

Further, a driver convicted of causing serious injury or death to an emergency responder in violation of the Move Over law can lose their driver’s license for up to six months.

Any violation of the Move Over law results in 3 insurance points on your driver’s license, which can increase your auto insurance premiums by as much as 60% for three years.

NC Move Over Law Applies to Many Types of Emergency Responders

While most of us understand we should move over for police and fire vehicles, all North Carolina motorists need to understand that the Move Over law covers multiple types of vehicles.

The law specifically mentions:

  • Law enforcement vehicles
  • Fire department vehicles
  • Public or private ambulances or rescue squad vehicles
  • Public or private highway maintenance vehicles operating an amber-colored flashing light
  • Vehicles operated by the:
    • North Carolina Forest Service
    • C. Division of Parks and Recreation
    • C. Division of Marine Fisheries
  • “Public service vehicles” that are:
    • Responding to wrecked or disabled vehicles, such as tow trucks
    • Installing, maintaining or restoring utility services, including electric, cable, telephone, communications and gas
    • Collecting garbage, solid waste or recycling.

Why North Carolina Has a Move Over Law

All 50 states have “Move Over” laws. The U.S. Department of Transportation says that, since 2007, more than 150 law enforcement officers have been killed after being struck by vehicles along America’s highways. In 2017, nine officers were struck and killed outside their vehicles.

North Carolina adopted the Move Over law in 2002. When it was first enacted, drivers who violated the rule faced a $25 fine, plus court costs.

By 2014, the North Carolina Department of Transportation was working to raise awareness about the law because, in the previous year, state troopers had issued more than 1,400 citations to drivers for violating the Move Over law, according to WRAL in Raleigh.

An earlier incident had already led to stiffer penalties that should have increased awareness of the law and its importance.

On August 11, 2005, State Patrol Trooper M.G. McLamb was conducting a traffic enforcement stop on U.S. 301 near the N.C. 59 Exit just south of Fayetteville in Cumberland County. About 1 p.m., McLamb was standing on the driver’s side of the stopped vehicle and had just turned to return to his patrol car when the vehicle of a motorist who had failed to move over and decrease speed hit him. McLamb was treated at a local hospital and released.

The motorist returned to the accident scene and was charged with careless and reckless driving, according to WRAL.

At the time, the Highway Patrol said that, since 2002, 72 troopers had been struck either while in or outside of their patrol cars alongside highways.

A month earlier, the General Assembly had increased the fine for causing an injury to an emergency responder when violating the Move Over law from $120 to $250. After McLamb’s injury, the fine was increased to $500. The General Assembly also added the possibility of being charged with a felony if a collision occurs that results in serious injury or death. These changes went into effect on July 1, 2006.

The Move Over law expanded in 2012 to include roadside utility or maintenance crew vehicles bearing flashing amber lights.

On December 5, 2018, just before 7 a.m., Lumberton Police Officer Jason Quick, age 31, was assisting in an investigation of an accident at Exit 22 on Interstate 95 North in Lumberton when a motorist struck and killed him.

Senate Bill 29, which led to the increased penalty for injuring an official in a Move Over violation in 2019, is known as the “Officer Jason Quick Act.”

“Law enforcement officers like Jason Quick put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a news release upon signing the bill into law in July. “This bill will increase penalties for those who recklessly endanger the lives of our first responders, and I’m proud to sign it in memory of Officer Quick and in honor of all of our first responders.”

Contact a Lawyer About Roadside Injuries Caused by Motorists

An emergency responder or utility worker injured by a negligent motorist while working alongside a North Carolina highway deserves to be fully compensated for his or her injuries and related expenses and losses. It is best to contact a North Carolina law firm with attorneys experienced with workers’ compensation, car accident and personal injury cases.

An attorney from Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A. in Raleigh will fight insurance adjusters who try to pay you as little as possible to settle a valid claim. A civil lawsuit seeking compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering is separate from potential criminal charges a driver may face. You will need to pursue a personal injury lawsuit independently of any criminal prosecution of the at-fault driver. We serve all of North Carolina and can help you. Let a personal injury lawyer at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A. explain your options in a free, no-obligation legal consultation. Contact us today.

About the Author

David E. Vtipil
David Vtipil is an attorney at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks and concentrates his law practice in injuries due to negligence and workers' comp. David E. Vtipil was selected by his peers for inclusion in the 21st Edition of The Best Lawyers in America in the field of Workers’ Compensation Law.

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