What Is the Federal Move Over Law?
The move over law is a federal mandate that dictates that motorists must respond to emergency vehicles sitting in a lane of traffic. If an emergency vehicle has its hazard lights on and is sitting in a lane of traffic, other drivers are required by law to “move over” one lane away from the emergency vehicle.
Imagine that you are driving on a four-lane highway and the slow lane (four-lane) has a police cruiser in it with its lights on. If you were abiding by the move over law, you would not travel in the lane with the cruiser (four-lane) or the lane next to the cruiser (three-lane). Therefore, you could only drive in the fast lane (the one-lane) and the lane immediately next to it (the two-lane.)
If there are only two lanes and a police cruiser stopped with their hazards in the slow lane, a car is required by law to slow down to a reasonable speed and pass the police cruiser.
The Addition to Texas’ Move Over Law
In Texas, the move over law extends past emergency vehicles. In addition to ambulances, firetrucks, and police cruisers, tow trucks also trigger the move over law. According to the International Towing and Recovery Museum in Chattanooga, TN, 50 to 100 tow truck drivers die while on the job every year. This high death rate is due to drivers not respecting the space of tow truck vehicles as they are assisting someone on the side of the road.
Since inattentive drivers kill tow truck workers every year, Texas implemented tow trucks into the move over law in 2012; however, people still fail to follow the move over law for tow trucks.
Tow truck workers are “first responders” in their own right. When a person’s car breaks down, they call a tow truck to haul it. Therefore, tow truck drivers are the “first on scene” to help a stranded motorist. They must perform their work on the edge of the road, putting their lives in danger as they help their customers.
However, a tow truck does not command the same amount of respect as an emergency vehicle. When people spot the red and blue flashing lights, they automatically think about their speed and proximity to the cruiser. They subconsciously assess the situation, slowing down so as to not speed past an officer.
On the other hand, few people think about their speed when a tow truck flashes its yellow light. Without the authority of a city “emergency responder,” motorists would rarely move over for one. However, the law officially puts these trucks on par with authorities. Therefore, when you see a tow truck on the side of the road, move over to keep yourself and the worker safe. If it's a two-lane street, then slow down as you pass the truck to ensure that you respect their space.
One Texas tow truck driver had this to say to fellow motorists:
“If you see the flashing lights, slow down or move over, I've got a wife and daughter at home waiting for me, and if I don't come home, what are they going to do?"