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Pa. ‘move over’ bill would double penalties for endangering first responders on roadways

The bill seeks to update the state’s 2001 “steer clear” law with stiffer penalties and clearer rules about driving near emergency scenes and vehicles


Megan Tomasic
The Tribune-Review

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Revisions to the state’s steer clear law could make it safer for first responders assisting at calls along roadways, two Republican senators said.

State Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, and Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams County, propose changes to the law that will clarify how drivers should act when passing emergency response areas.

The changes were announced during a news conference in Harrisburg Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s important because we have people putting their lives on the line every day, first responders, tow truck drivers, anyone who stops to help a motorist in distress,” Ward said. “There are, everyday, accidents across our country.”

Under Senate bill 1281, the 2001 steer clear law would be rebranded to the move over law. The bill lays out penalties for drivers who do not switch lanes to give first responders room to work. If a driver is unable to safely change lanes they must slow down to no more than 20 mph less than the posted speed limit.

Penalties for drivers who do not comply include a new point system — two points for not changing lanes — and increased fines.

As the law stands now, drivers would pay a $250 fine for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for three or more offenses, according to state police. Those fines were increased in 2017 following a rise in charges between 2013-15, according to a memorandum for Senate bill 288.

The proposed changes would double fines, from $500 for the first offense to $2,000 for a third offense.

The legislation would also require PennDOT to educate the public about the move over law.

“It’s important,” Ward said. “These people are trying to help. It’s an easy thing for a driver to do. Move over, move out of the way. … It’s simple to do and it saves lives, it saves people from being hurt.”

A Rostraver paramedic was killed in January after being hit by a vehicle while responding to a crash on Interstate 70 near the Smithton exit. Matt C. Smelser, 44, a paramedic supervisor, died after he was hit by a tractor-trailer when exiting an ambulance.

According to state police, 7,075 citations were issued between 2018-19 for not adhering to the steer clear law. During that period, police said they issued more than 3,200 warnings.

“The steeper fines and point assessment introduced in this legislation should act as a deterrent against repeat offenders, while also providing another opportunity to educate drivers on the move over law,” Mastriano said in a statement. “It is my hope that this legislative effort helps saves lives.”


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