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Move Over Law: Change Lanes to Save a Life

tractor trailer truck on the road

Most drivers today know what to do when they hear the distant sound of a siren. Properly reacting to an emergency vehicle that whizzes past is essential to the safety of other drivers. But pulling aside is not the only important law that protects emergency responders. North Carolina’s Move Over Law is crucial to the safety of those stopped on the side of the road.


Each of the 50 states has its own version of the Move Over Law. Since 2002, North Carolina’s legislation has protected State Troopers, law enforcement officers, and emergency and utility workers stopped along the highways. The law requires that drivers move over one lane (if safely possible) when passing a stopped emergency vehicle on the side of the road. Originally, the penalty for failing to comply was $250 plus court costs.

In 2005, State Trooper M.G. McLamb was struck when standing on the driver’s side of a vehicle he stopped. As he turned to go back to his patrol car, a driver failed to move over and hit the Trooper. McLamb survived the accident, but the government in response raised the fine to $500.

Despite the severity and frequency of these accidents, a 2014 survey found 70% of drivers were unaware of the law. In 2018, a distracted driver struck and killed a Lumberton police officer who was responding to an accident on the roadside. In response, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed into law the “Jason Quick Act” in his namesake.

Compliance and Penalties

Ideally, each driver should move out of the lane immediately adjacent to the emergency of maintenance vehicle. However, if it is unsafe to change lanes, drivers must slow down to a reasonable speed and maintain awareness of those outside their vehicles.

Anyone who causes the injury or death of an individual by failing to move over, could face felony charges. In addition, the driver could get 3 points on his or her license, and even have driving privileges revoked for up to six months.

Over the years, hundreds of law enforcement officers have been killed outside their vehicles on the nation’s highways. It’s difficult to assign a definitive number to how many serious injuries result from a motorist’s fails to move over. Some agencies do not report move over violations as separate events and some will use independent tracking companies. However, the Emergency Responder Safety Institute estimates 6-8 EMS workers, and 10-12 police officers lose their lives while responding to roadside activity each year.

Move Over Law Representation

Attorney Shawn Howard recently mediated a case on behalf of a North Carolina State Highway Trooper whose patrol vehicle was struck on the side of the road by a distracted motorist. The pre-suit settlement offer was only $5,000. After litigating the case, the firm recovered $45,000 for the client.

If you are an emergency responder or utility worker injured by a negligent driver while working along a North Carolina highway, contact us today. Insurance adjusters frequently avoid paying out the amount an accident victim or survivor’s family requires to heal. Our experienced personal injury attorneys will pursue the highest settlement possible on your behalf.

Maginnis Howard offers free consultations for personal injury claims to North Carolina residents. For more information, contact our office at (919)-526-0450 or submit a message through our contact page. Our office may ask you for documents to appropriately assess your case.