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‘Move over’ laws explained

July 16, 2011
By DAVE WERNER - Franklin County Traffic Safety Board ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

As you drive along a rural two-lane state highway at the allowed 55 mph, such as state Route 30 in Franklin County, you approach a bicyclist riding on the shoulder to the right of the white "fog line."

In this example, there are no vehicles coming toward you. If you continued in your lane, there would be room to pass the cyclist. However, article 1122-a of state Vehicle and Traffic Law mandates that you "shall pass to the left of such bicycle at a safe distance until safely clear" of the bicycle.

In this case, since there is no oncoming traffic, it is permissible to move slightly into the oncoming lane in order to pass the cyclist at a safe distance in compliance with article 1122-a. By not doing so, you may pass the cyclist safely but you will be putting him/her in a more dangerous situation than if you move several feet into the oncoming lane. This requirement became law on Nov. 1, 2010, and was implemented to give added protection to bicyclists.

Continuing with the preceding example, should oncoming traffic prohibit your moving into the opposite lane, the intent of this law is that you might need to slow down as you pass the bicycle, and at least move as far as practicable to the left side of your travel lane.

Another new "move over" law, article 1144-a, that became effective Jan. 1, 2011, requires motorists on a parkway or limited access highway (such as an interstate highway) to move from a lane which contains or is immediately adjacent to the shoulder where an emergency vehicle is displaying emergency flashing lights and is parked, stopped or standing, if you are able to do so considering traffic in the other lane.

Article 1144-a also stipulates a driver must "exercise due care to avoid colliding with an authorized emergency vehicle which is parked, stopped or standing on the shoulder or any portion of such highway" and is displaying its emergency lights.This law is coupled with article 1180 (e), which mandates slowing to "an appropriate reduced speed" when passing an emergency vehicle that is parked, stopped or standing on the shoulder of the road and is displaying emergency flashing lights.

Simply put, if you come upon any authorized emergency vehicle stopped, parked, or standing along the highway and is displaying emergency flashing lights, you must slow down. If you are on a parkway or controlled access highway, you must also move over into the left lane if you are able to do so. If you are overtaking a bicycle, you must move to your left as far as practicable to give plenty of space between your vehicle and the bicycle.

All of these laws are designed to offer protection to bicyclists and to emergency responders and enforcement agency personnel that are put in a vulnerable position by nature of their duties or responsibilities. Exercising due care to avoid a collision with a bicyclist or personnel at an emergency scene is common sense, and it is also the law.


For more articles on vehicle and traffic law and traffic safety, go to the Traffic Safety Board website at



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