With weeks of winter still ahead, chances are good you will see emergency vehicles, snowplows and tow trucks if you are traveling in or through Ohio. These responders often place their own lives and safety in danger to help others in the most miserable conditions, including cold, rain and dangerous traffic.
Even on a clear day, you may see a police officer on the shoulder of the road assisting a motorist or writing a citation. Your instinct may be to slow down to avoid getting a ticket of your own. However, Ohio law requires you to consider the safety of the officer as well.
The Move-over law
More states are adopting move-over laws requiring motorists to move to the next lane if a vehicle with rotating or flashing lights occupies the shoulder. The purpose of this law is to save the lives of those who must work in traffic. Hundreds of workers die or suffer injuries each year when motorists crash into them on the side of the road. When you drive, you must be alert for any of the following vehicles, and move over to the next lane if you are able to do so safely:
- All law enforcement, including state, local and county police
- Fire trucks, ambulances and other rescue vehicles
- Tow trucks
- Utility vehicles
- Road construction vehicles
- Trash collection vehicles
Of course, it may not always be safe for you to shift to the next lane. For example, weather conditions, heavy traffic or oncoming vehicles may make it impossible for you to leave your lane without risking your life or the lives of others. In such cases, you must slow down and remain alert. At any moment, you may need to stop if someone steps into your lane.
One of the most frustrating and dangerous situations emergency responders face is when other drivers fail to yield to them when they are trying to get through traffic in an emergency. The law requires you to pull over to the right and stop if an emergency vehicle, such as a police car, fire truck or ambulance, approaches with lights and siren engaged. Slowing down is not sufficient, and in addition to endangering lives, you face serious penalties if you fail to obey this law.
The fines related to these laws can be quite steep, in some cases doubled, and they increase quickly if you receive more than one citation in the space of a year. For advice about your options when facing any traffic violation, you can seek the counsel of an experienced attorney.