So, you are driving in the state of Maryland and you see a police car on the side of the road with its emergency lights on. The police officer has just pulled someone over for speeding. What do you do?
Not sure? Well, unless you want to be the next person pulled over, you should read on.
In 2012, the Maryland legislature passed a statute, Transportation Article 21-405 of the Maryland Annotated Code, in an effort to ensure the safety of police officers who make road-side stops.
The so-called “move over” law is a result of the “Move Over, America” partnership, made up of the National Safety Commission, National Sheriffs’ Association, National Association of Police Organizations, and American Association of State Troopers.
These organizations have good reason to push their agenda in state legislatures across the country: Between 2000 and 2010, 154 police officers were killed because they were struck by a vehicle while making a traffic stop.
While a somewhat late adopter, Maryland is now one of the 50 states that have a “move over” law. Only the District of Columbia does not have such a law.
While passing these laws nationally is a great thing, there remains a big problem. Most people don’t know about them and don’t know what the laws mean. According to a poll conducted by the National Safety Commission, 71 percent of Americans have not even heard of “move over” laws.
So, what are you supposed to do?
As you drive toward a police car that has made a traffic stop, you are required to pull into the next lane of traffic in order to leave one open lane between your vehicle and the police car. If you don’t, you’ll get a ticket.
But, what if it’s a two-lane road and you can’t leave an open lane between your car and the police car? The statute requires you to slow down to a “reasonable and prudent speed.”
What is a reasonable and prudent speed? The law does not provide an answer. Logic suggests that you should simply slow down so the officer’s safety is not at risk, and therefore, your bank account won’t be either.
Alan Fishbein is a founding partner in Fishbein & Fishbein, P.A., a law firm based in Ellicott City, Maryland. He attended Boston University and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies from George Washington University in 1973. He graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1976.