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Slow Down, Move Over Laws Expanded

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Spurred by the rapidly increasing number of roadside crashes that have injured and killed emergency personnel and stranded drivers in the past five years, AAA successfully lobbied for the passage of expanded Slow Down, Move Over laws in three states last year.

While the laws in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island previously required drivers to slow down and move away from the shoulder if they saw emergency vehicles, the laws now require drivers to take the same action if they see any car stopped on the roadside.

“We wanted to expand the law to all vehicles for a few reasons,” said Alec Slatky, managing director of public and government affairs for AAA Northeast. “We help drivers who are stuck at the roadside due to some issue with the vehicle – and we know that some of those situations occur at the side of high-speed roads. We wanted to give those individuals the same protection that we give other folks in dangerous situations at the roadside.”

Roadside Assistance Workers Face Greater Risks

Between 2017 and 2021, 1,874 pedestrians across the country were killed while outside of a disabled vehicle, according to most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Over that period, there were 41 such fatalities in New Jersey, 30 fatalities in New York and four fatalities in Rhode Island.

“Rather than specifying that drivers need to take extra precautions when they see certain types of cars at the side of the road – as important as those actions are – we can say that drivers need to take action to protect every vehicle at the roadside,” Slatky said. “We hope this will improve compliance with the law overall.”

Rhode Island’s revised law took effect in June 2023; New Jersey’s and New York’s expanded laws took effect in March.

The number of fatal crashes involving roadside assistance workers continues to climb at an alarming rate, according to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

More than 120 tow truck drivers, mobile mechanics, emergency roadside technicians and safety service patrollers were killed between 2015 and 2021 while helping motorists at the roadside, according to the study. Results show an alarming increase in the frequency of fatal roadside worker crashes, with one roadside assistance provider dying every two weeks in 2021.

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Slow Down, Move Over for Everyone

The primary goal of AAA’s campaign is to reduce crashes between cars and people along the roadside. “Far too many people are killed or suffer life-changing injuries because a passing driver didn’t provide a margin of safety,” Slatky said. Another priority is to help drivers understand how vulnerable people on the side of the road are and consider how they would want passing drivers to respond if their cars broke down.

Part of the reason for the major uptick in crashes is the number of operators driving at excessively high speeds. “We’ve seen a particularly concerning trend with more drivers speeding – not just at 5 to 10 mph above the limit, but at especially egregious speeds,” Slatky said. “Overall, we saw a spike in dangerous behavior behind the wheel during the COVID pandemic – and unfortunately, it hasn’t subsided, even as more cars have come back on the road.”

Spreading awareness about the new laws is essential, as is enforcing and upgrading penalties for violations.

“We know that many of the drivers involved in these crashes are impaired, speeding, distracted or some combination of the three, so increased enforcement for those offenses would be worthwhile,” Slatky said. “We’ve also done research about the usefulness of variable message signs and other countermeasures that tow truck operators can use. Proper training of tow truck drivers about how to reduce their risk is critical – but unfortunately, even the best practices are no match for a driver veering entirely off the road.”

Have you ever been stuck at the roadside waiting for assistance? Did you feel safe? Tell us your story in the comments below.

Learn more about the slow down, move over initiative.

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One Thought on “Slow Down, Move Over Laws Expanded

  1. Being AAA membership in Vermont has helped me secure better safety measures and help me as an individual of color with disability That Drives to understand the road conditions and road life of consumers drivers business and all walks of life in Vermont Rural communities Statewide Across New England.

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