Why Oklahoma’s Move Over Law Is One of the Most Important Laws to Follow

Many Tulsa drivers are aware that they are required to slow down, stop, and yield the right-of-way to any emergency vehicles that have either their lights or sirens on. What they may not know is that they’re supposed to do the same thing when an emergency vehicle is on the side of the road, too.

However, some drivers choose not to obey this law. This puts our emergency workers and first responders at an unnecessary risk of harm. That is why Oklahoma has a move over law, which “requires motorists to move over or slow down for any vehicle with flashing lights on the side of the highway, including first responders, law enforcement, maintenance workers or cars with hazard lights flashing.” Therefore, when an emergency vehicle needs to get by or pull over onto the side of the road, other drivers must move over into the other lane to ensure that they do not strike the emergency vehicle or the workers. This prevents dangerous and deadly accidents from occurring. If you are on a road that has no other lanes for you to move over to, you should reduce your speed and proceed cautiously while making sure that you do not hit anyone.

If you are caught violating the Move Over law, you can receive a citation and a fine from a police officer. Beginning November 1, 2023, Oklahoma increased the fines for not following the Move Over law. The fine for a first-time offense was raised to $1,000. For any recurring offenses, your fine will now be $2,500. If an emergency worker suffers an injury because you did not follow the law, you may be required to pay a $5,000 fine, and if they die, this fine could be increased to $10,000.

Recent accidents involving an emergency vehicle or emergency worker being struck by a vehicle in Oklahoma

Accidents involving emergency vehicles or emergency workers being struck by vehicles happen all too frequently. According to AAA, “on average, two emergency responders, including tow workers, are struck and killed every month by a driver who fails to obey the [Move Over] law” in any given state. Here are just a few recent accidents involving an emergency vehicle or worker doing their jobs when they were hit by another vehicle in the state of Oklahoma:

  • In December 2023, an individual directing traffic was struck in North Tulsa. The accident occurred close to Mingo and Pine during the early morning hours. Unfortunately, the individual succumbed to their injuries quickly after arriving at the hospital.
  • In May 2023, a construction worker was struck by a vehicle in Midwest City. It is believed that the construction worker survived, but the severity of their injuries is unknown.
  • In January 2023, a police officer who was in the middle of directing traffic was struck by a vehicle. He was able to survive the accident but experienced several broken and fractured bones throughout his body.
  • In November 2022, a tow truck worker was struck on the shoulder of a roadway while working on a vehicle. He had his emergency lights on and was wearing a safety vest, but a vehicle still swerved and hit him. He died from his injuries.
  • In September 2022, a sanitation worker pulled his sanitation truck over and stepped out to grab a trash can when he was struck by a vehicle. He was instantly killed at the scene of the accident.

Five safety tips recommended for drivers who may come into contact with emergency vehicles or workers

Emergency workers can be hard to see when the weather is poor or there’s a disabled vehicle blocking them. This is why the Move Over law is so important: it’s because these folks may not be as visible as the emergency they’re attending to. It’s our civic duty to protect the people who go out of their way to protect us, so here are five steps you can take to avoid a crash with an emergency worker:

  1. Do not drive while tired: Driving while tired is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. The reason for this is because it can result in you dozing off or falling asleep behind the wheel. If this happens, even if only for a second, it can cause you to run off the side of the road, veer into other lanes, and even strike or collide with an emergency worker or vehicle.
  2. Make sure your lights and windshield wipers are on when necessary: People tend to hit emergency vehicles or workers when it is dark or rainy outside, or when visibility is limited. You should make sure your headlights and windshield wipers are on to try to prevent this type of accident from occurring.
  3. Put your phone away: While you may be tempted to send a text message, read an email, or make a phone call while driving, it is crucial that you refrain from doing this. You may think that it is only for a few seconds, but the NHTSA explains that if your eyes are off the road for even five seconds, this equates to a lack of focus for “the length of an entire football field.” Rubbernecking at an accident is a form of distraction itself, so slow down and keep your eyes on the road instead of craning to see what happened on the side of it.
  4. Do not drive over the posted speed limit: When you speed, your reaction times are reduced tremendously. If you choose to speed, you may end up coming upon an emergency service worker or vehicle and find it extremely difficult to slow down or stop in time to avoid hitting them.
  5. Move away from any type of worker, vehicle, or pedestrian when passing by: While the law typically only mentions emergency vehicles and workers, it is crucial to apply this law to all pedestrians and vehicles. The reason for this is because if you can prevent a dangerous or deadly accident from happening by simply moving over, that is what you should try to do. It is also a simple, common courtesy we can show to fellow motorists who are likely already experiencing a great deal of stress for whatever reason has them immobilized on the side of the road.

If you are an emergency service worker or driver that was hit by a vehicle while doing your job, the Tulsa personal injury lawyers at Biby Law Firm are here to assist you. Our team takes these types of accidents very seriously and will use all our resources, tools, knowledge, and skills to help you obtain justice for your injuries and other losses. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule a meeting to start discussing your case today.