It takes two

It often happens that two careless drivers combine to create an accident either could have avoided.

A police officer turned on emergency lights, opened the car door, and a passing car hit the door.

The police department used the opportunity to write about the “move over” law.

The law does not specifically prohibit hitting a police car. On a four lane road you have to change lanes “if practicable”. Otherwise, on a two lane road or a busy four lane road, you have to “proceed with due caution and reduce the speed of the vehicle to that of a reasonable and safe speed for road conditions.” A collision suggests lack of “due caution.” It is not an offense on its own.

I often cross the double yellow when passing a stopped emergency vehicle, oncoming traffic permitting, but the law doesn’t require so much effort. Doing that may be illegal in some states, and you’re likely passing an officer who is looking for any excuse to write you a ticket.

The “move over” law is used for two purposes. It’s an add-on charge when you hit a police car, and it’s a trap. Police create a traffic hazard by turning on their lights for no reason and start writing tickets. Usually tickets go to people who don’t change lanes. In some states tickets go to people who didn’t slam on the brakes when the speed limit secretly dropped from 60 to 40. And there’s no reason they couldn’t get you for moving over on a two lane road where the law doesn’t require moving over. Think of it as a game.

This was a motor vehicle stop, not a move over trap, but it’s hard for drivers to tell the difference.

It appears the Pittsfield police officer also violated a law.

In Massachusetts, “No person shall open a door on a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with the movement of other traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians.” (MGL 90-14)

This law was passed in response to bicyclists getting “doored”. Around Boston bike lanes were marked right next to parking spaces. An open car door projects into the bike lane. At least twice, bicyclists died after being pushed under a truck or bus.

One of those deaths was after the law was passed. It’s not really a useful law. It punishes dangerous acts. It doesn’t prevent dangerous acts.

Old law already said drivers were at fault if they opened a door into traffic. Bicyclists demanded more. So they got a $100 fine on top of the insurance surcharge.

But it’s a harmless law, and in that respect better than the “move over” law.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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