HAMILTON, NJ - As the saying goes, there are two sides to every story, and somewhere in the middle is the truth. In this case, AAA took a look at two vastly different perspectives regarding compliance with the New Jersey Move Over law – which requires motorists to move over or slow down when an emergency vehicle is on the shoulder of the roadway.
In two recent polls, the AAA Clubs of New Jersey surveyed New Jersey motorists, New Jersey Law Enforcement Officers and AAA Tow Truck Operators to highlight the perception verses the reality of the New Jersey Move Over law.
In the survey of New Jersey motorists, 84 percent of those surveyed said they are aware that in New Jersey it is the law to slow down or move over for emergency vehicles on the side of the road. Fifteen percent said they were not aware of the law, and only one percent were unsure.
Additionally, 61 percent of New Jersey motorists said that they both slow down and move over when approaching an emergency vehicle or tow truck on the side of the road. Some motorists (25 percent) said that they only move over one lane and 12 percent said that they slow down below the posted speed limit.
Taken at face value, those results paint a very positive picture of both knowledge and compliance with the Move Over law which has been on the books in since 2009. However, New Jersey emergency responders have a different point of view.
When New Jersey law enforcement officers and AAA tow truck operators were asked if they feel that motorists are aware of the Move Over law, 59 percent said No, 35 percent said Yes, and only 5 percent said that they were unsure. More alarming is that 61 percent of those surveyed do not feel safer on the side of the road because of the Move Over law.
These results reinforce the support for recently passed Senate and Assembly bills which requires the New Jersey DOT Commissioner to develop public awareness programs and use variable message signs to inform motorists about the State’s “move over” law.
As written, the law requires motor vehicle operators to reduce their speed and change lanes when approaching authorized vehicles displaying emergency lights. Such vehicles include police, fire and medical service vehicles, and also highway maintenance, tow trucks and official motorist aid vehicles displaying amber emergency lights. Where possible, drivers are required to move over to create an empty lane next to the emergency vehicle. When safely changing lanes is not possible, drivers must slow down below the posted speed limit prior to passing emergency vehicles. Drivers should also be prepared to stop, if necessary.
“Flashing lights on the side of the road should immediately alert drivers to safely merge away from emergency workers in the shoulder, providing an empty lane of protection while they work,” Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic said. “Slowing down below the posted speed limit is the next best option if a merge is not possible.”
While the Move Over law currently applies only to emergency vehicles with flashing lights, 86 percent of New Jersey law enforcement officers and AAA tow truck operators believe that it is a good rule of thumb to move over for any disabled vehicle or vulnerable user on the side of the road regardless of flashing lights.
“New Jersey has some of the busiest roadways in the nation,” Noble continued. “Providing a lane of protection to emergency workers, disabled motorists and vulnerable users is a small but critical step in reducing fatalities on New Jersey’s heavily traveled roads.”