As a driver, you work hard to stay on the right side of the law. You watch your speed, obey road signs, and yield right-of-way to other drivers. However, there’s one law that can earn you a citation even if you are just driving along and minding your own business: the Virginia move over law.
The Passage of House Bill 403
In January of 2010, the State Assembly passed House Bill 403, which was more commonly known as the Virginia move over law. It requires motorists who are driving on a highway containing at least four lanes to move over to the left if they see an emergency vehicle with flashing amber lights. This law is in effect whether the emergency vehicle in question is on the roadway or the shoulder of the road.
The previous law called for the same actions to be taken by motorists, but only for emergency vehicles which displayed red or blue flashing lights (such as police cars or fire trucks). The Virginia move over law is designed to protect different types of emergency vehicles, including:
• Tow trucks;
• Construction equipment; and
• Highway maintenance vehicles.
Therefore, if you are driving along a highway past a vehicle with flashing lights and take no action, you can still be cited for violating the Virginia move over law.
Violations are No Longer Misdemeanors
For motorists, there is one positive aspect to the Virginia move over law. Before the law was passed, failing to move over a lane while driving by emergency vehicles was a Class 1 misdemeanor crime. This means that the infraction would have been entered into your permanent criminal record.
However, the Virginia move over law only classifies this infraction as a traffic citation, not a misdemeanor crime. But you should know that any subsequent violation of the Virginia move over law can result in a Class 1 misdemeanor (just like a reckless driving or reckless driving/speeding citation would).
Change Lanes Only When it is Reasonable or Safe
There is an important caveat regarding the Virginia move over law. The law only dictates that you change lanes if it is reasonable or safe to do so. If conditions are such that moving over would be unsafe or unreasonable, all you are required to do is maintain a speed that is appropriate for the road conditions.
This “reasonable or safe” concept represents a degree of subjectivity in the Virginia move over law. Consequently, an experienced Virginia reckless driving attorney can often use this gray area to your advantage in a traffic case. Depending on the circumstances, your lawyer may be able to argue that the state has failed to prove that changing lanes was not unreasonable or unsafe given the road conditions at the time.
If you suspect that you have been unfairly charged with violating the Virginia move over law, you should consider engaging the services of a Virginia reckless driving attorney to fight the accusation.