NJ considers point penalty for repeated ‘move over’ violations
More than a decade after New Jersey enacted its "move over" law, it is looking for ways to get more drivers to comply with the requirement to give space and added safety to emergency vehicles working on the side of the roads.
A bill up for an Assembly vote Monday that is also advancing in the Senate would update the law to emphasize that drivers should at least slow down if they can’t move over – and potentially hit them with two motor vehicle points if they don’t do either.
However, the bill, S2501/A3890, was amended over the past week to limit those motor vehicle points to only apply to people found to violate the law three times in a 12-month period.
“Although enacted in 2009, many motorists are still not fully aware of what exactly the move over law requires them to do, while others are aware but still blatantly disregard a simple and straightforward law,” said Steve Kuhn, first vice president for the State Troopers Fraternal Association.
“The fact is we are at a crossroads on this issue, where increased awareness must be coupled with the deterrence component of motor vehicle points,” Kuhn said.
Drivers approaching stationary emergency vehicles – police cars, fire trucks, EMS vehicles, tow trucks, garbage trucks and other highway safety vehicles – that are displaying red, blue or amber flashing lights must move over one lane or, if that can’t be done safely, slow down below the posted speed limit.
Fines for violations run from $100 to $500 and are determined by municipal court judges.
More than nine tickets a day, on average, are issued in New Jersey for violations of the move-over law: 12,900 between the start of 2016 and the end of last month.
Move-over tickets by county and year
Nearly 7,500 of the 12,900 have been disposed of by the municipal courts, with 72% of those drivers found guilty, 1% found not guilty and 27% of the cases dismissed.
The number of tickets is on pace to increase this year to its highest level since 2016. Through the end of October, with two months left in the year, 2,925 move-over tickets had been issued this year, compared with 3,065 in 2018, 3,045 in 2017 and 3,865 in 2016.
“I think our real problem is education, and I’m not sure that adding points is going to make that big a difference,” said state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth.
“It’s really education is what we should be aiming at. I don’t think we’ve done enough of that,” he said. “I think your average person out there isn’t thinking, ‘I’m going to stay in this lane, put an officer’s life at risk or a first responder’s life at risk, because there’s no points.”
The bill does require a public awareness campaign by the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety, although it provides no funds for a media campaign. The division already has a poster, flier, palm card, web banner and public service announcements available online.
“Creating an awareness program because we have police officers and emergency service workers or people that work on the side of the road actually are getting injured,” said Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, D-Monmouth. “And it’s not a rare occasion. It happens quite often.”
More move-over tickets have been issued in Middlesex County than anyplace else since 2016 – nearly 2,000, or 15% of the statewide total. More than half the tickets in the state were given in five of its 21 counties: Middlesex, Monmouth, Union, Burlington and Morris.
The original law took effect in January 2009. The proposed changes, if approved, wouldn’t go into effect until next August or September, depending on when it is signed.