I got an email about my recent implication that move over laws are dangerous. As they say on Wikipedia, citation needed.
“Move over” laws, if you’ve been doing real work instead of reading news for the past 20 years, allow police to ticket drivers who don’t slow down and/or move over when passing stationary vehicles with flashing lights. These laws are said to be a common-sense measure to protect police and emergency workers.
In 2009 Massachusetts was embarrassed to be without a “move over” law like the trendy states, when opportunity struck. Literally struck, in the form of a drunk driver who provided the impetus to get the law passed. I think most everybody knew a law wouldn’t have prevented the crash. They didn’t care. Police wanted another game to play with drivers.
It was worse than just not knowing the law wouldn’t help. Advocates of the law pointed to a web site moveoveramerica.com. This was the best case supporters of the law thought they had, an annual count of police officers struck and killed by the roadside:
See how the death rate increased from 10 in 1999 to 18 in 2008? A quick check with R‘s least squares fit function backed up my first impression. It wasn’t just two years. The average increased over the decade.
As nearly all states passed these laws, the statistic picked by supporters of the law showed more deaths.
Supporters of “move over” laws said they kill police officers.
They weren’t the first to undermine their cause.
What’s worse: 14 crashes in five years before move over or 11 crashes in nine months after move over? A middle schooler (this was pre-Common Core) could see after was worse. Wyoming officials couldn’t. When somebody explained how division works, they replied that if they ignored crashes they didn’t feel should be included in the statistics, the statistics were on their side. In fact the finger-on-the-scale statistics weren’t on anybody’s side; the difference was statistically insignificant.
The death rate increase I mentioned may not be statistically significant either. It didn’t continue after 2008. A better conclusion is that these laws do not help and might hurt. And they do one more thing.
Let’s go shopping. Which car would you like in your ticket bag? How about the green one going below the speed limit in the right lane.
Flip on the lights. If the car doesn’t change lanes, that’s a move over violation. If the car changes lanes… that’s an unsafe lane change. It’s a rigged game.
Police in Alberta play it best. Flashing lights automatically cut the speed limit from 110 km/h to 60 (70 mph to 35). Flip a switch and what was legal a second ago becomes 50+ over the limit. 50 over is bad in Canada. In some provinces they take your car away.
The details vary, but the essence is the same. Police park on the shoulder, which they say is dangerous, and turn on the lights for the sole purpose of creating a hazard.
Maybe that’s why people keep crashing.
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