When driving in Pennsylvania, there are a lot of laws to keep in mind. But there may be one you haven’t heard of yet — the Steer Clear Law. This law teaches you how to respond if there is an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road you are traveling on. How do you handle a stopped police cruiser or ambulance coming up on the side of the road?
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Vehicle on the Shoulder — Double Lane
If you notice an emergency vehicle on the shoulder of a road where there are two lanes going the same direction, move over so there’s an empty lane between yourself and the emergency vehicle. If you cannot change lanes safely, slow down until you can. This helps protect the emergency workers who may be emerging from the driver’s seat of the stopped vehicles.
Vehicle on the Shoulder — Single Lane
If the emergency vehicles are on the shoulder of a single-lane road and you are unable to safely change lanes to go around, get as close to the center line as you safely can to put as much distance as possible between you and the emergency vehicles. You will be remaining in your lane, but you don’t want to drive close enough to the emergency vehicles that you risk injuring someone emerging from them.
Vehicle in Single Lane
If there is no shoulder for emergency vehicles to safely stop in, you may see them stopped in your lane. In cases like these, you will slow down and use the opposite lane to move around the emergency vehicles. Always yield to oncoming traffic. If you cannot safely move around the emergency vehicles due to oncoming traffic, wait until the way is clear before proceeding.
Vehicle in Double Lane
If you are on a double-lane road and an emergency vehicle is stopped in one of the lanes — generally the outer lane unless they’ve stopped to assist a disabled vehicle — you need to change lanes and give the emergency vehicles as much room as possible while remaining in your lane.
Who Do You Move Over For?
The PA Steer Clear Law requires that drivers move over for emergency vehicles on the side of the road —but what constitutes an emergency vehicle? You need to move over for all of the following:
- Police and sheriffs
- Coroners and medical examiners — these individuals may have part of the road marked off as a crime scene, so be sure to drive accordingly
- Firefighters, fire police and fire marshals
- Rescue personnel
- Towing and recovery personnel — while not technically emergency services, these individuals often work on the sides of the road and should be afforded the same courtesy
- Emergency medical service (EMS) personnel
- Hazardous Materials Response Team (HAZMAT) members
- Highway construction and maintenance personnel
PA Steer Clear Law Penalties
Violating the PA move over law could leave you subject to a number of penalties, including but not limited to:
- A fine of up to $250
- Doubled fines in construction zones
- 90-day license suspension if the violation leads to an injury
In spite of these penalties, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) found that violations of this law increased by 85 percent between 2013 and 2015.
In response, Pennsylvania Sen. John C. Rafferty Jr. introduced a bill that would increase the penalties for violating the move over law, including:
- Steeper fines — $250 for the first offense, up to $500 for the second and up to $1,000 for the third and all subsequent offenses
- 90-day license suspension after the third offense or after subsequent offenses. The 90-day suspension after an injury related to the law is still in place
- Requiring PennDOT to collect information and produce a report on an annual basis, as well as increase efforts to educate citizens about the Steer Clear Law