WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Drivers could soon face tougher penalties for violating North Carolina’s move over law.
Senator Danny Britt, who represents Robeson and Columbus counties, and Senator Tom McInnis are the primary sponsors of the bill aimed at increasing penalties for drivers who violate the move over law.
The bill was unanimously voted out of the senate judiciary committee Tuesday morning. It will be heard by the senate rules committee Wednesday morning and will go to the senate floor for a vote on Thursday.
If passed, this bill would be known as the “Officer Jason Quick Act,” in honor of Lumberton Police Officer Jason Quick who was hit and killed on the side of the road while responding to a traffic accident in Dec. 2018.
“I am very pleased to be a primary sponsor of this legislation which is designed to keep our officers and first responders safe while they are on the job. Nothing will bring Officer Jason Quick back but this legislation will hopefully bring the attention to this issue and protect those who keep us safe,” wrote Britt in a statement Tuesday.
According to NC G.S 20-157, the law requires drivers to slow down and approach cautiously when an emergency vehicle is stopped on the shoulder of the roadway with its lights flashing.
Drivers are required to move over to another lane away from the emergency vehicle on a multi-lane highway or slow down on a two lane highway and can do so safely. Drivers must slow down while maintaining a safe speed.
In 2012, the law was expanded to include service vehicles, including electric, cable, telephone, communications, gas and all state vehicles with an amber light. The expanded law also requires drivers to move to the furthest lane from the stopped vehicle, if safe to do so.
There are three types of ways to violate the move over law.
First, if a driver fails to abide by the move over law, he or she could be charged with a misdemeanor. Under this bill, that penalty would be increased to a Class 3 misdemeanor.
Second, any person who violates the law and causes damage to the immediate area of the authorized emergency vehicle or public service vehicle in excess of $500 or causes injury to a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency vehicle operator, incident management assistance patrol member, public service vehicle operator or any other emergency response person would be charged with a Class I felony. Under current law, a person would be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor.
Thomas Toby, President and Owner of Thomas Towing and Transport said more people violate this law than abide by it. He said many don’t realize the move over law applies to tow trucks.
“Most people need to understand that tow trucks are emergency response vehicles. When they’re working on the side of the road with their lights on, under the general statute for the state of North Carolina, we are considered emergency vehicles the same as a fire truck, ambulance, police car, anything. People need to know that," Toby said.
He thinks tougher penalties will help, but would also like to see better enforcement of the law.
“I think definitely increasing the penalties but also increasing the enforcement of this. Some local law enforcement jurisdictions don’t even recognize the slow down move over law as it applies to tow trucks. They see it as it applies to the fire trucks and the police cars and the ambulances but they don’t recognize it as it applies to tow trucks and therefore enforcement has not been where it needs to be,” Toby said.
Finally, the new bill also proposes that a person who violates this law and causes serious injury or death to any emergency response or public service vehicle operator would be charged with a Class F felony. Under current law a person would be guilty of a Class I felony.
If passed, this act will become effective on Dec. 1 2019 and would apply to any offenses committed on or after that date.