The Virginia General Assembly made numerous changes to its existing traffic laws in July of 2015. The new additions appear at Virginia Code Section 46.2-921.1. They significantly change how motor vehicle operators should respond when encountering certain vehicles and situations on the roadway.
The legislature’s intent
Every year roadside emergency workers or other people on non-motorized vehicles are injured or killed by other motorists. The intent of these laws is to increase their zone of safety. Take notice of these traffic law changes and be ready to comply with Virginia’s “Move Over Law” when confronted with traffic management vehicles, trash collection trucks, mail delivery trucks that are often required to stop along the roadway. Even bicyclists are given broader protection from the changes.
Vehicles with flashing, blinking or alternating amber lights
The sum and substance of Virginia’s “Move Over Law” is that when you come upon a vehicle with flashing, blinking blue, red or alternating amber lights, you’re first required to proceed with caution having due regard for that vehicle and the traffic conditions on the roadway. Then you must drive at a speed that’s safe and at least 10 miles per hour under the speed limit. You’re required to change lanes before passing that vehicle if you’re able to make that lane change safely. If you can’t make that lane change safely, you have to give that truck a minimum of two feet of clearance on its left. Should you come upon that truck on a four-lane road, you’ll be required to make a lane change into the left lane to pass it. If changing lanes is unreasonable or unsafe, you’re required to proceed with due care and caution at a speed that’s safe for the conditions on the roadway.
If you’re passing a stationary mail truck using flashing, blinking or alternating amber lights, you must proceed with caution. You’re then required to maintain a safe speed given due regard for the traffic conditions on the roadway.
Bicyclists and mopeds
You can now be cited for following a bicycle, moped or other non-motorized vehicle like a skateboard or foot scooter more closely than is reasonable and prudent having due regard for the speed of both vehicles and the traffic and road conditions at the time. When passing a bicycle, moped or other non-motorized vehicle, drivers are required to maintain a reasonable speed and pass at a distance no less than three feet on the left. The old statute only required two feet of clearance. If you’re on a two-lane roadway, you must slow down and maintain a proper interval until such time as you can enter the opposite lane of traffic to safely pass that bicycle, moped or non-motorized vehicle. By enacting this three foot passing law, Virginia joined 24 other states.
Trash collection or recycling trucks
If you’re going to be passing garbage truck or recycling truck in a neighborhood or on a two-lane road, you must decrease your speed to 10 miles per hour below the speed limit and pass no less than two feet from the left of the vehicle. If it’s being used for working on a four-lane roadway, you’re required to make a lane change into the left lane in order to legally pass. At all times, the passing driver must yield the right-of-way to the garbage or recycling truck.
A first time violation of the “Move Over Law” is punishable as an ordinary traffic violation. A second violation that involves a vehicle with flashing blue, red or amber lights is a Class 1 misdemeanor that is punishable by nor more than a year in jail and a fine not to exceed $2,500. Should a violation result in injury or death, the motorist could lose their driver’s license for two years.
The key to complying with any of these new “Move Over Laws” is simple. When at all possible, it’s usually safer to slow your speed and move over into another lane of traffic when you see these vehicles on the side of the road or using an emergency lane on a Virginia roadway. Contact The Brown Firm PLLC if you’re charged with a violation of a “Move Over Law.” Points, fines, court costs and insurance premium increases just aren’t worth it. If an injury or death is involved, the consequences can be drastic.