By NMA President, James Baxter
A common act in our driving culture is to move left, as far as practical and necessary, to give a little extra room to vehicles that are stopped along side the road.
It could be someone changing a tire, a police officer aiding or ticketing a motorist, or a tow truck loading a disabled vehicle.
It’s just common sense and common courtesy to provide a cushion of space in these situations.
Never content with common sense and common courtesy, the safety kanobs and ax grinders in the country want perfection. This is now manifested in 44 states as “move over, slow down laws and is being promoted by AAA, towing companies, police groups, and the usual collection of “safety” organizations. They even have a NASCAR driver (David Ragan) roped into the PR campaign.
The big push is to extend the law to just about any roadside vehicle capable of mustering a blinking light.
Personal experience and anecdotes suggest these laws are an unintended disaster.
Traffic is flowing along at 70 MPH and a stopped squad car appears:
- Ultra law abiders veer into the left lane causing mayhem in the passing lane.
- Those who actually look first see they can’t make the lane change safely, and on go the brakes.
- The vehicles immediately behind, in which the drivers are now looking at their mirrors or over their shoulders, attempting to move left, suddenly are stunned by glaring brake lights.
- They veer, they brake, they may even take to the shoulder to avoid rear-ending the car in front of them.
Of course the stopped vehicles are on the shoulder, there to greet them. Meanwhile, 50 or 100 vehicles back, speeds suddenly drop 20 MPH and the inattentive get the opportunity to meet their fellow travelers, up close and personal.
Given that 44 states have these laws, some for several years, it stands to reason that they might have been evaluated in terms of looking for reduced crashes and injuries related to roadside accidents.
We contacted the AAA, the advertised chief promoter of this campaign, and asked them if they had research or could point us to a study that verified the supposed benefits of these laws.
The short answer was “no” they don’t have any evidence to support the value of these laws, just the conviction based on the bias of troopers and tow truck drivers, that “move over, slow down” laws are a good idea.
This is a classic “tail wagging the dog” public policy that takes a useful voluntary gesture (showing a little consideration for those stranded or working along the roadside) and turning it into an arbitrary counterproductive law.
This ranks right up there with the fad of doubling, or worse, fines for speeding in work zones.
The official hype is that motorists are mowing down roadside workers. The truth is that the biggest danger to roadside workers is other roadside workers.
Pray for the day we motorists can get a little respite from these charlatans! Maybe we should hire a NASCAR driver to plead our case?