South Carolina’s “Move Over” Statute

We all probably know that emergency responders, police officers and tow truck operators have a potentially dangerous job when they need to stop on the side of a busy road to help another driver–but many South Carolinians are breaking a traffic law designed to protect them without even realizing it.

The Move Over Law

Enacted in 2002, South Carolina’s “move over” law is designed to protect those that stop to help stranded or injured drivers alongside the road. How exactly does the law look to safeguard these hard-working professionals? The general guidelines of the law aim to have drivers either move over (as the law’s name implies) to avoid hitting any unseen rescue workers or slow down if moving over isn’t possible. When there are two lanes on a road traveling in the same direction, the law requires drivers to move to the lane away from the stopped emergency vehicle and personnel. In cases where moving over isn’t possible–either because there’s only a single lane in each direction or doing so wouldn’t be safe–drivers are to slow down by at least five miles per hour and keep an eye out for emergency personnel moving into their path. What counts as an emergency vehicle? A good rule of thumb is that any vehicle with flashing lights should be treated as one for purposes of this law. Police cruisers, fire trucks, ambulances and tow trucks are all covered by the law.

Penalties for Breaking the Law

The penalties for violating South Carolina’s “move over” statute can be significant. A simple violation of the law can result in a misdemeanor charge with a fine between $300 and $500. Of course, if you do strike and injure or kill an emergency responder or tow truck operator while violating the law, the penalties can be much more severe. Despite these penalties, South Carolina highway patrolmen cite this law as the one most commonly broken by the state’s drivers.

The Hard Facts

The surprising fact is that all 50 states have some form of “move over” law, despite many drivers remaining completely unaware of their legal obligations as they approach a stopped emergency vehicle. What’s more, these laws have been enacted for good reason. In 2016 alone, 71 paramedics and firefighters were struck while assisting stranded and injured drivers roadside, and 63 tow truck operators were killed by the side of the road in the same year. So if the potential misdemeanor charge and fines aren’t enough to get you to slow down, remember these statistics and do your part to help protect the lives of emergency personnel.

If you were injured because someone failed to obey the law, the attorneys at Ryan Montgomery Attorney at Law can help.