Most people know they have to move over when they see flashing emergency lights behind them when they are driving. However, some people may not be aware that we have responsibilities when it comes to emergency vehicles that are on the roadside as well. Today, we want to talk about West Virginia’s Move Over laws. What are they, what are your duties, and what are the penalties for violating this law?

What kind of vehicles does the Move Over law apply to?

The West Virginia law applies to any “stationary authorized emergency vehicle.” This includes vehicles such as:

  • Police cars
  • Ambulances
  • Firetrucks
  • Other rescue vehicles
  • Other recovery vehicles such as tow trucks, roadside assistance vehicles, snow removal vehicles, and more.

What am I supposed to do when I see a stationary emergency vehicle?

You will be able to identify the vehicles for which you must move over by their flashing emergency lights. Blue and red lights are used for emergency vehicles while amber and yellow lights are used for warnings and other recovery vehicles.

Some important things for you to remember when you see emergency lights approaching on the roadside include:

  • Change lanes if you can. Always check to make sure your path is clear and use your turn signal to indicate you are changing lanes. You only need to move over one lane in order to comply with the law.
  • If you cannot change lanes because of traffic or because there is only one lane, you need to reduce your speed. On non-divided highways, slow your speed to 15 miles per hour. On divided highways, reduce your speed to 25 miles per hour.

Always be aware of your surroundings

West Virginia has plenty of crashes that result in stationary roadside emergency vehicles. For the latest reporting year, there were 268 total traffic crash fatalities and 1,381 total serious traffic crash injuries in West Virginia. Even car accidents with no major injuries or cases of stalled vehicles result in the deployment of emergency services.

Many people do not realize there are upcoming emergency vehicles until it is too late to safely change lanes or slow down. Minimize your distractions when you are behind the wheel. Put the phone down and only make phone calls using hands-free devices. Please know that texting while driving is illegal in West Virginia and can lead to devastating roadside accidents.

What are the penalties for violating the state’s Move Over law?

The state takes violations of the Move Over law very seriously. A violation of this law is a misdemeanor in West Virginia. Penalties can include:

  • A fine of up to $500 and/or
  • Up to 60 days in jail
  • If the violation causes property damage, a motorist’s license will be suspended for a period of 90 days.
  • If the violation causes an injury to another person, the motorist’s license will be suspended for six months.
  • If the violation leads to a fatality, the motorist responsible will lose their license for two years.

Please know that a negligent motorist who causes an injury or fatality could also face a civil personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death lawsuit.

The bottom line is this – be aware of your surroundings and be ready to move over or slow down when you are approaching emergency vehicles on the side of the road.