When the clock strikes midnight tonight, warm wishes will resonate for a happy and healthy New Year. At that time, on Jan. 1, a new law, New York State's Ambrose-Searles Move-Over Act, will go into affect and hopefully add to a safer New Year for everyone as well.
The law requires motorists to move over one lane when noticing parked law enforcement vehicles or emergency vehicles with sirens sounding and lights flashing, or, if that is not possible, to slow down 20 mph below the posted speed limit.
If motorists fail to comply with this law, they will receive a ticket. The penalty for violating the law will be a fine up to $275, mandatory court fees and two points on a driver's license record.
Gov. David Paterson enacted the law because, although many motorists make a habit of changing lanes when they see flashing lights ahead on the shoulder of the road, some motorists don't. When they don't, the results can be tragic accidents.
Such was the case on Dec. 19, 2002, when state trooper Robert Ambrose from Tarrytown was burned alive inside his patrol car in Yonkers after a drunk driver rammed into it. Another case occurred on Nov. 29, 2003, when Onondaga County Deputy Sheriff Glenn Searles, while on Interstate 481, was struck and killed by an out–of-control minivan as he was getting flares from his patrol car to assist another car that slid off the icy road.
Appropriately named after these two heroes, the Ambrose-Searles Move Over Act aims is to protect those whose aim is to protect others.
We are the 48th state to pass this life-and-death law that originated in South Carolina after paramedic James D. Garcia was hit and injured at an accident scene in 1994. Garcia, though listed at fault, did what he deemed necessary to protect others who respond to road emergencies. Subsequently, the first Move-Over Law was passed in 1996 and revised in 2002.
It was because of Mr. Garcia's initiative, coupled with more accidents of a similar kind, that the United State Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration and public interest groups became mindful of the need to improve standards and protect emergency responders.
When you are driving 55 mph or faster, please pay even more attention to the road ahead. When you are driving at that speed, watch out for police vehicles, fire trucks, ambulances, flashing lights, road flares and sirens —everything that indicates or outright spells EMERGENCY. Hopefully with this law, fewer mistakes will be made, resulting in less injuries and tragedies.
To date, only Hawaii and Washington D.C. are without Move Over Laws. I find this quite upsetting, since President Obama was born in Hawaii and presently resides in Washington, DC. Hopefully, Hawaii and Washington will follow New York and enact Move Over Laws in their respective states.
Have a happy, healthy and safe New Year!
Michele Reinbach hosts the website Slow Down the Town.