In 2006, Tennessee enacted section 55-8-132 of the state driving code, making it the 30th state in the nation to enact such a law, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The “Move Over Law,” as state legislature refers to it as, is a law that requires drivers to move over into an adjoining lane of traffic when approaching an emergency vehicle. “Emergency vehicle,” for the purpose of this law, is any highway maintenance vehicle, recovery vehicle (tow trucks), utility service vehicle or solid waste vehicle. Per the law, if it is unsafe to move over, drivers should slow down.
The Move Over Law is the result of the “Move Over Campaign,” which the state used to raise awareness of the dangers people face when working on the side of a busy road or highway. The goal of the law is to protect emergency responders, police officers, firefighters, utility workers and highway workers. The penalty for violating this law is a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days in jail or both.
Though the state implemented the law more than 15 years ago, a recent report from News Channel 5 Nashville reveals that drivers continue to violate the Move Over Law. Since the enactment of the law, the state has seen 100 crashes that are due to drivers’ failure to comply with the law. Those 100 crashes resulted in 37 deaths or injuries. Police officers have cited over 2,000 people for breaking the law.
In 2019 and the Central Tennessee region alone, 17 different people hit TDOT help trucks or equipment because of their failure to move over. Almost every TDOT worker has a story that involves barely avoiding being hit by a careless driver. Tennessee Highway Patrol says that distracted driving is the biggest culprit, while “being in a hurry” also frequently results in a violation of the law.
Per the report, AAA technicians face the most risk. Tow truck operators are 15 times more likely to die while doing their job than workers in any other private industry combined. AAA wants to remind all drivers to leave a 4-foot shoulder between their own vehicles and those parked along the side of the road.