Virginia Expands the “Move Over” Law

When driving on the highway, it’s not unusual to see police or emergency vehicles on the shoulder. Sometimes emergency vehicles may be stopped on the highway, due to a motor vehicle accident, a tree or other debris in the road, or some other emergency. Many drivers do not realize that Virginia law requires a driver in these situations to move over into a more distant lane, unless it would be unreasonable or unsafe to do so. If you cannot move over safely, then you are required to proceed with caution and at an appropriate speed. Recently the law was expanded to include almost any vehicle that has flashing lights on the shoulder.

Virginia’s “Move Over” law was first enacted in 2002, and required drivers to move over one lane if they were passing stopped vehicles with flashing red or blue lights such as police or fire/rescue. As of July 1, 2010, that law was amended to also include vehicles displaying amber-colored flashing lights.

The expansion of the “Move Over” law, which appears in the Virginia statutes at Virginia Code §46.2-921.1 [1], was designed to give more protection to operators of tow trucks, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) vehicles, motorist assistance vehicles, and other road maintenance or emergency vehicles displaying a flashing amber light. Now, whether you see a red, blue, or amber flashing light, you are required to do the following:

(i) proceed with caution and, if reasonable, yield the right of way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the stationary vehicle. (i.e. “Move Over”); or

(ii) if changing lanes would be unreasonable or unsafe, then to proceed with due caution and maintain a safe speed for highway conditions. [2]

The “Move Over” law applies only to highways that have at least four lanes and where there are at least two lanes for traffic proceeding as the approaching vehicle.

A first time violation of the law is punished as a simple traffic infraction. However, a subsequent violation involving a vehicle with flashing red or blue lights is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The punishment for conviction of a Class 1 misdemeanor is confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500.00 either or both.

If failure to obey this law results in property damage, the violator may have their driver’s license suspended for up to a year. If failure to obey this law results in injury or death, the violator may lose their license for as long as two years. [3]

Every year there are emergency workers who are tragically killed or seriously injured while simply doing their jobs. Virginia’s “Move Over” law allows these workers who are protecting and serving our community to do their jobs with a little more safety and security. So remember — when you see those flashing lights ahead on the highway, please MOVE OVER, and if that’s not possible, use caution and SLOW DOWN if you can do so safely.

About the Author: David Williams has focused his legal career almost exclusively on personal injury law, wrongful death and products liability cases. He has successfully argued cases before the Virginia Supreme Court.


[1] For the complete language of the Code section, see http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title46.2/chapter8/section46.2-921.1/.

[2] Same as above.

[3] Same as above.