Georgia’s Spencer Pass Law, usually referred to as the “Move Over Law” urges motorists to take caution when approaching an emergency, towing/recovery or utility service vehicle (law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters, tow truck operators, highway maintenance workers and utility service workers) when traveling in the lane adjacent to the shoulder. Drivers must move over one lane when these vehicles are acting in an official manner or could be fined as much as $500.
According the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, this law was passed in response to the growing number of police, emergency technicians, and DOT workers who were being killed during routine traffic stops, crash responses, and highway construction projects around the nation. More than 30 states have a “Move Over Law” on the books, with fines that range as high as $1,000 or more.
Major Hank Fielding of the Georgia State Patrol knows much too well the importance of this law. On February 16, 1991, Major Fielding conducted a routine traffic stop on a vehicle for speeding. While conducting the stop, he came to the conclusion that the driver had been drinking. After removing the violator from the vehicle, Major Fielding went back to the car to see if there was any visible alcohol present inside the car. Before he could finish his search of the vehicle, a passing vehicle struck and injured him. The driver stopped for a moment and then quickly drove away. Ironically, the violator from the traffic stop ran over quickly to render aid and Major Fielding instructed him to call for assistance. Weeks later the driver of the hit and run was located and taken into custody.
Twenty-five years later, Major Fielding believes that the “Move Over” law is very necessary in protecting all first responders and anyone whose job requires them to work on the side of the highway. “To me, what’s lacking is the education. Everyone knows about laws such as the speed limit, but not everyone knows about the Move Over law” said Major Fielding. “It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that people don’t know” he added.
The Spencer Pass Law was named after a 45-year old Department of Transportation HERO (Highway Emergency Response Operators) employee who was killed while assisting a stranded motorist on I-85 near the Metropolitan Parkway exit on January 31, 2011. Pass was struck by a utility truck driver towing a flatbed trailer. Since his death the I-85 Bridge over Cleveland Avenue was named the Spencer Pass Memorial Bridge in honor of his respected and exemplary service to the citizens of Georgia.
Move Over or Spencer Pass Law: Georgia Code, §Title 40-6-16.
- 40-6-16. Spencer Pass Law; procedure for passing stationary authorized emergency vehicles, stationary towing or recovery vehicles, stationary highway maintenance vehicles, or stationary utility service vehicles
(a) This Code section shall be known and may be cited as the “Spencer Pass Law.”
(b) The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is displaying flashing yellow, amber, white, red, or blue lights shall approach the authorized emergency vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a peace officer, proceed as follows:
(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or
(2) If a lane change under paragraph (1) of this subsection would be impossible, prohibited by law, or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.
(c) The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary towing or recovery vehicle, a stationary highway maintenance vehicle, or a stationary utility service vehicle that is utilizing traffic cones or displaying flashing yellow, amber, white, or red lights shall approach the vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a peace officer, proceed as follows:
- Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the towing, recovery, highway maintenance, or utility service vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or
- If a lane change under paragraph (1) of this subsection would be impossible, prohibited by law, or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.
(d) (1) Violation of subsection (b) of this Code section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500.00.
(2) Violation of subsection (c) of this Code section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $250.00.
(e) As used in this Code section, the term:
(1) “Utility service vehicle” means any vehicle being used by an employee or contractor of any entity, including, but not limited to, a political subdivision of this state or a local authority or commission related thereto, an electric cooperative, or a public or private corporation, in connection with the provision of utility services.
(2) “Utility services” means and includes electric, natural gas, water, waste-water, cable, telephone, or telecommunication services or the repair, location, relocation, improvement, or maintenance of utility poles, transmission structures, pipes, wires, fibers, cables, easements, rights of way, and associated infrastructure.
For more information please visit the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety website or click on the link below. http://www.gahighwaysafety.org/highway-safety/move-over-law/.