When you're approaching a cop car, ambulance or tow truck on the side of the road, with its lights flashing, do you know it's the law to either switch lanes or slow down?

police car (Dmitriy Eremenkov, ThinkStock)
Dmitriy Eremenkov, ThinkStock

If your answer is yes, good job. But do you actually follow the rules?

In a AAA study released Thursday, nearly 60 percent of the New Jersey law enforcement officers and tow truck operators surveyed said they do not believe New Jersey motorists are aware of the state's Move Over law. Sixty-one percent said they do not feel any safer on the side of the road since the law took effect in 2009.

But AAA knows there are two sides to every story.

So the association surveyed New Jersey drivers as well.

Eighty-four percent of motorists said they are aware of the law, and 61 percent said they both slow down and move over when approaching an emergency vehicle or tow truck on the side of the road.

"I think that the truth is somewhere in the middle," Cathleen Lewis, director of public and government affairs for AAA Northeast, said of the conflicting survey results. "Motorists may be aware of the law. They are probably not acting on it as often as they should be."

Lewis noted drivers and emergency vehicle operators likely have a different definition of safe speeds in this specific situation. The law insists drivers make a lane change if possible. If it's not, the driver must slow down to a "reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions."

"There's always a need to educate folks," Lewis added.

Both the state Assembly and Senate have approved legislation that requires the Department of Transportation to develop public awareness programs and use message signs to inform motorists about the state's Move Over law. The Governor has until early next week to sign the bill into law.

In the AAA survey, 86 percent of officers and tow truck operators said it's a good rule of thumb to move over for any disabled vehicle or vulnerable individual, regardless of flashing lights.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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