Each time a Maine police officer stops a motor vehicle or investigates the scene of a crash, that officer risks being struck by a passing driver. According to the Maine government website, accidents involving motor vehicles are the number one killer of police officers on state roads and highways.
In 2007 a law was passed requiring drivers throughout Maine to slow down and/or pull over if they encounter a stopped emergency vehicle. If you see the flashing lights and fail to respond appropriately, you can be issued a summons and fined $326.
What is the Move Over Law?
Under Title 29-A §2054-9, drivers passing a parked emergency vehicle with its emergency lights activated must pass in a lane that is not adjacent to the vehicle or, if doing so is unsafe or impossible, must pass at a careful and prudent speed. In this context, ‘emergency vehicle’ includes but is not limited to:
- Police cruisers
- Fire trucks
- Tow trucks
- Highway safety vehicles
On December 29, 2018, the Portland Press Herald warned that the Maine State Police will start clamping down on motorists who disregard the “move over” law after two state police cruisers were rear-ended on the turnpike while stopped in the breakdown lane with their emergency lights flashing.
In the first case, a state trooper was pinned inside his vehicle and seriously injured when a tractor-trailer traveling at a high speed struck the cruiser and forced it against a guardrail. In the second, an 18-year veteran of the state police was injured in a collision while parked with his emergency lights flashing.
The police have accelerated enforcement of the move-over law in the past. When six accidents involving police vehicles took place between December 2013 and mid-January 2014, police began to videotape motorists in the act of violating the law. It appears that recent accidents are inspiring another movement to make Maine thoroughfares safer for public safety workers.
Obeying the Move Over Law in Winter
Winter driving can be difficult and even dangerous, especially under snowy and icy conditions. Violations of the move over law can happen when you and/or your vehicle are not prepared for winter driving, so keep yourself and others safer by observing these road safety steps.
- Equip your vehicle with snow tires. They provide the best traction on slippery roads. They can also shorten your braking distance by up to 25%. All-season tires are not as effective, as their gripping ability diminishes at temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius.
- Drive slowly and carefully. Don’t stop or turn abruptly unless you absolutely have to. Doing so increases the risk of your car skidding out of control. Driving too fast is one of the primary causes of winter collisions in Maine, so maintain a safe speed for the road conditions.
- Apply your brakes slowly to reduce your speed as you approach a turn. Don’t accelerate again until you have safely rounded the corner.
- Do not use cruise control when driving conditions are snowy or icy. If you encounter a slippery stretch of road and your car starts to hydroplane, it will attempt to accelerate and you could lose control of the vehicle.
- Be aware of the best way
forcontrolling skids. The way your car responds to skidding depends on whether it has front-wheel, rear-wheel, or four-wheel drive. If it comes with an anti-lock braking system, learn how to use it properly.
- Always pay attention. Never text and drive, answer an incoming call, or indulge in any activities that could take your attention off the road. It can only take a second of distraction to cause a serious accident.
When Maine drivers disregard the weather and the conditions of the road, they put first responders and everyone else on the road at serious risk of injury. Negligent drivers should be held accountable so that their victims receive the compensation they need to recover.
What’s the Bottom Line?
If you or someone you love has been injured because someone failed to observe the move over law or otherwise behaved negligently behind the wheel, contact Fales & Fales, P.A. Our Maine car accident attorneys will fight to obtain the damages you need to cope with and move on from the injuries and disruption to your life. If you are a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, or another first responder, we thank you for your service.