Several recently effective vehicle and traffic laws that require motorists to slow down and move over when approaching emergency and hazard vehicles displaying flashing lights seem to be working much better than when these requirements first became law. I have not seen statistics that prove this, but as I drive around the North Country it is apparent that most motorists are observing these new laws better than ever before. My perception also applies to other states as well.
I just recently made a round trip to Virginia, most of which is on I-81, and in EVERY situation where there was a police officer having stopped a vehicle for whatever reason, every motorist slowed to some degree and each moved over into the left lane if they were not prohibited from doing so by vehicles already in that lane. I was impressed.
As a brief review of these laws, section 1144-a of V & T Law, effective Jan. 1, 2011, requires motorists to move over and slow down when approaching and passing a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing red, white and/or blue lights. This law was amended shortly after to add hazard vehicles displaying flashing yellow lights. This includes tow trucks, utility (electric, gas, cable TV etc.) vehicles, highway maintenance vehicles including snow plows, and rural mail carriers.
Compliance with this law means slowing down to an appropriate speed while passing these vehicles and, if on a limited access highway, moving over a lane if it is practicable to do so. Even on two lane roads, if there are no oncoming vehicles, it is permissible to cross a solid line on your side of the road in order to give more room between your vehicle and the emergency or hazard vehicle you are passing if it is safe to do so.
A person convicted of a violation of V&T Law, section 1144-a, is subject to a fine of up to $150 plus surcharges. It also includes two points on your license.
Another version of a "move over" law is section 1122-a, "Overtaking a bicycle." This law became effective in November, 2010, and requires anyone overtaking a bicycle from behind to "pass to the left of such bicycle at a safe distance until safely clear thereof". A minimum of three feet is considered a safe distance in most circumstances, but there are occasions where more than three feet is necessary in order to pass at a safe distance. As a cyclist, I find that on rural roads where there are no lines painted, motorists move well into the oncoming lane to pass me. This is good. However, I also find that, on state highways where there are lines, many motorists do not cross the center line, even if there are no oncoming vehicles. Thus they go whizzing past closer than need be. Again, if it is safe to do so, it is permissible to cross the center line into the oncoming lane when passing a cyclist riding on the shoulder.
For more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board's website at: www.franklincony.org and click on "Traffic Safety Board" under departments then look for Did You Know articles under "services."