South Carolina law requires that motorists slow down and, if possible, move over into an adjacent lane when they see first responders working in the roadway. The goal of the law is the protection of first responders, but the law also directly impacts those assisting first responders – specifically, tow truck drivers, who often are on the scene of an incident or an accident as quickly as first responders.
According to the South Carolina Department of Transportation, roughly 100 first responders are killed each year responding to roadside incidents, and of those 100, sixty are tow truck drivers. In response, tow truck drivers in the state are participating in the Spirit Ride, a nationwide motorcycle ride geared towards raising awareness across the nation about Move Over laws.
Move Over laws are incredibly important to the safety of first responders as well as motorists and individuals involved in accidents. Individuals who fail to observe those laws run the risk of serious criminal punishment and civil liability.
In South Carolina, failure to move over for first responders can result in an individual being charged with a misdemeanor and fined at least $300, up to a maximum of $500. However, if the failure to move over results in an accident or injury to first responders or others, the driver can be held both civilly and criminal liable for their act, particularly if the driver who failed to move over acted recklessly or negligently.
The most important thing for drivers to remember is that tow trucks are considered authorized emergency vehicles and are covered specifically in the state’s law. Even if a tow truck is operating in a situation where no other police or fire vehicles are present, they are still considered authorized emergency vehicles that are covered by the “Move Over” law.
The next time you see flashing lights, slow down and, if you can safely, move over. Doing so may save lives.
Orangeburg personal injury attorney Gary Christmas is a senior partner and founding member of the law firm Howell & Christmas LLC. He dedicates his practice to protecting the rights of the injured and has been featured in publications from USA Today, CBS News, and Morningstar. He can be found on Facebook and YouTube.