Police officers, firefighters, EMS workers, and tow truck drivers face significant risks when they stop along the roadway to provide aid. New York, like many states, has a Move Over Law to protect emergency personnel on or near the road. In New York, drivers must exercise due care to avoid colliding with an emergency or hazard vehicle that is parked or stopped on the shoulder or highway with its emergency lights displayed. On a parkway or a controlled access highway, the driver must move out of the lane adjacent to the emergency or hazard vehicle, if doing so otherwise complies with the traffic laws. NY Veh & Traf L § 1144-A. Generally, this means that a driver must move from the lane next to the emergency vehicle as long as it is safe to do so. Hazard vehicles are broadly defined and include tow trucks, highway maintenance vehicles, ice and snow removal vehicles, rural letter carrier vehicles, sanitation vehicles, and utility vehicles. NY Veh & Traf L § 117-A.
Recent incidents have raised the issue of New York’s Move Over Law. In March, two troopers and two tow truck drivers were injured while responding to a crash. According to news reports, the officers had closed the left lane with flares, but a driver still left the roadway and hit the troopers’ vehicle and then the troopers and the tow company owner. The driver has since been charged with DWI. In April, a Department of Transportation electrician was struck by a vehicle and killed while performing maintenance on a bridge.
Generally, a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law constitutes negligence per se, or negligence as a matter of law. When an act or omission constitutes negligence as a matter of law, the injured person does not have to prove all of the elements of negligence for the driver to be liable. The injured person instead must show that the driver violated a statute and that the injured person was in the group intended to be protected by the statute. A driver who fails to comply with the Move Over Law is therefore likely to be found liable for any serious injuries resulting from the failure to move over.
The Move Over Law only applies to the vehicles identified in the statute. It does not require drivers to move over for stalled vehicles or vehicles that have pulled off the roadway while awaiting the arrival of emergency responders or a tow truck. However, individuals waiting for assistance are also at risk of injury. An off-duty police officer who had pulled off the roadway and exited his vehicle with another driver was seriously injured recently when his vehicle was hit by another driver.
Although the presence of an emergency or hazard vehicle with its lights on provides support for a negligence per se claim, an accident victim may still be able to show a driver was negligent in failing to avoid the collision. When the Move Over Law does not apply, the victim will need to show that the driver’s acts or omissions meet the elements of negligence: duty of care, breach of the duty of care, causation, and damages. All drivers should be aware of their surroundings, including stopped vehicles or people near the roadway.
If you have been seriously hurt in an automobile accident, an experienced New York car accident attorney can fight for your right to the compensation you deserve. Call the Law Offices of Marc S. Albert at 1.855.252.3788 to discuss your case.
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