Move Over Michigan: First responders note increase of drivers failing to give emergency vehicles space

Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 5:54 PM EST
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MICHIGAN (WLUC) - Every year, first responders ranging from life-saving EMS crews to law enforcement like the Michigan State Police (MSP), see an increase of a disturbing trend: more drivers ignoring Michigan’s Move Over law.

Whether those lights belong to an ambulance or to police, first responders are seeing a number of people who either choose not to obey the law, or don’t even know they’re there.

“It could happen every day,” said Michigan State Police (MSP) Trooper Aaron Griffin. “That’s one thing about this job is you never really know what’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen.”

Troopers like Griffin reflect daily on the nightmare scenarios seen by first responders across the country when they put on their uniform and go out to patrol the roads.

“We run into problems with motorists not moving over very often,” Griffin added.

Michigan’s Move Over Law is straightforward.

If a driver sees emergency lights approaching, they should pull over to the shoulder and allow emergency vehicles to go by. In addition, if a driver sees lights stopped on the shoulder, they must merge over a full lane to give the emergency vehicle extra space, while reducing their speed to 10 miles below the posted limit.

“You’re taught and trained to move over once you see those emergency lights,” said Griffin.

Trooper Griffin brought TV6′s Cody Boyer along on regular traffic patrols. On two separate occasions over the course of two weeks, they watched as another trooper with 10-plus years of experience made routine traffic stops in front of them. In most cases, as the trooper pulled over drivers, all for speeding on US-41, those drivers did what Trooper Griffin calls “the best case scenario” — pulling into parking lots away from the highway.

However, Griffin said that is far less common, and the trooper ahead still had to weave her way through portions of traffic that wouldn’t move over.

“The other day, I had someone that I was traveling behind with my lights and sirens that did not move at all before I made my turn,” said Griffin. “I followed them for over two miles and they didn’t get out of my way.”

If you fail to obey the law, both troopers said you can get pulled over and served a hefty ticket: $400 for a first offense, with two points off of your license.

The intent of the law is to forge a safe and fast route for first responders to get to people who need them most, using their flashing lights as the signal.

“If people aren’t moving over like they are supposed to, it definitely has an effect on our response time and it can ultimately lead to greater injury or even death,” Griffin said. “I can confidently say that I did see a drastic increase in the amount of violations in recent years than I have in years’ past.”

For an example of such an extreme case, troopers point to videos captured by fellow law enforcement elsewhere.

In one case from 2014, all captured on a dash camera, the Montana Highway Patrol was shown on a snowy stretch of highway not unlike US-41. When drivers failed to move over, the scenario became nightmarish, as a semi truck slid into a car parked on the side of the highway, ejecting its driver. From there, responders scrambled to deal with a quickly worsening scene.

Ultimately, both MSP troopers hope more people get the message, so more occasions like the Montana crash can be avoided altogether.

“Whatever reason it may be,” said Griffin, “it’s our hope that we see a change and a positive change so that we can get to where we are going safely and in a timely manner.”