Move Over or Slow Down law. Is it really necessary and will it to the job?


I want to defend New Jersey radio host Judi Franco for an op-ed she wrote that has her in hot water with New Jersey’s state troopers’ union and Blue Lives Matter supporters. When I came across this story it was this headline that caught my attention:

‘Dead Cops Make Bad Laws’: Radio host’s op-ed ‘trampling on the graves of fallen police officers’.

Now that sounds bad, disgusting, how insensitive and cruel of Judi Franco, an obvious flaming liberal. Have I told you before about “headlines” given to stories? Their sole purpose is to catch your attention so you read the story, not for the story’s sake but for the provider’s sake; the number of reads, likes, whatever gives the news source standing to charge x-amount of advertising money so they make the headline—typically by a supposed professional headline writer, not the story author—shocking, which this headline does. This happens in the film industry. Movie studios promote their movie using what is known as a “trailer”, that short tease they give you before you watch your movie or what they use on television to create your desire to see their movie. How many times have you seen a movie that had nothing much to do with the trailer, or that the best scenes of the movie were in the trailer. Totally misleading. Headlines and movie trailers are all about getting us in their door, nothing else. This is why you never should read the headline and draw a conclusion from it. You certainly don’t go on rants based on the headline.

All right, this headline found on a conservative news site shows you everyone does it. But it is totally misleading. The story you’re being drawn to doesn’t support the shocking headline. So what is Judi’s beef? New Jersey, along with many states including mine in California, has a new law requiring motorists to move into lanes not adjacent to emergency vehicles on road shoulders or to slow down.

Why? Every year a few hundred—300-400—police offices, other emergency people including tow truck drivers, and road workers, are killed by people driving their car onto the shoulder where these people are. Every now and then we are treated to a video on our news of a car pulling onto the shoulder hitting a cop or whatever vehicle is there, including just a broken-down car. The idea is, and I totally understand this, the safety of whomever is on that shoulder rendering help, or a ticket.

One person killed on the shoulder of a highway by a car hitting them is one too many. But, and this is really important, at what point is a new law demanded? Just asking this question is assumed by some as insensitive to those killed when you reduce this to statistical numbers. This is what happened to Judi because she dared to question the need of a new law, or in this case upping the penalty for failing to move over or slow down. Judi’s argument is that moving over comes with its own hazards, especially on busy roads or highways so to be put into that risk requires a good reason, defined by statistical evidence of need.

For instance, “The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, for example, said its data shows that last year, six officers were killed in fatal crashes that appeared to involve move over violations.” The assumption is that cars in the so-called slow lane, or right side lane on a road or freeway, drift onto the shoulder and when this happens when a police officer, fire fighter, ambulance person, tow truck driver is there doing their services disaster happens including one of those helpers getting killed. Yes, it is tragic. But do drivers lose attention to where they are, drift onto the shoulder or close to an incident on the shoulder, and put lives in danger? I’m not saying this doesn’t happen but after thousands of hours of driving on roads and freeways I’ve never witnessed this, and I’ve seen drivers do a lot of stupid things, but not this. And yet it does happen, but why?

When I’ve read stories of this happening mostly it’s attributable to drunk drivers. One study explaining why concluded that the lights from the emergency vehicle attract the drunk driver and reflexively pull to the light. Makes some sense. The drunk driver is already breaking the law, why would we assume a move over law would mean much to them.

I’m talking about adding one more law, in mass of laws already on the books that in effect does little to nothing to resolve the problem. But in a statist society we turn to law to enforce behavior someone deems desirable forcing behavior with penalty of jail or fines or loss of privileges—in this case driving. The problem I see is that we conflate many traffic deaths that has nothing to do with shoulder deaths but happened near it as one statistic and that favoring move over laws. This law will do nothing for the inflated death statistic not caused by drifting onto the shoulder at the worst time, and putting drivers who have to move over at risk merging into traffic.

I’ve been in a broken-down car sitting both on the right shoulder of a freeway and on the median shoulder and it is very frightening as all those fast cars pass by. And yet millions do pass by without ever drifting onto the shoulder.

I question adding another law and increasing its penalties in a statistically low incident of tragic events when potentially causing other tragic risks? Roadside help is risky, roadside stops for traffic violations are risky and I don’t want anyone hurt or killed because someone for whatever reason pulled into them. But I question that another law will really help. And this is all that Judi was doing in her op ed.

Below is Judi’s opinion piece:

“Because we don’t have enough laws in New Jersey, a legislator wants to take one we already have and give it more teeth.

“NJ’s “move-over” law was established nine years ago after State Police Trooper Marc Castellano was struck and killed in the line of duty, on the side of the road, by a driver who did not move over.

“It’s a silly law that requires a driver to move over when they see police, maintenance, tow truck and other emergency vehicles and personnel on the shoulder. Duh. No one is going to deliberately run into someone on the side of a road. If you can move over safely, you probably will. But it’s not always safe to.

“With this law, I notice a hazardous trend of drivers noticing the activity too late and panicking and stopping short or trying to move over too quickly. Plus, it is already difficult to enforce because the cops who would give you a ticket for not moving over are already occupied doing whatever they’re doing on the side of the road, which is why you have to move over in the first place!

“Now, there’s a $100 to $500 fine for violating the law, but Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth) is sponsoring a bill which would impose two points as well.

“We don’t need this law. It’s common driving sense to give room to people working in the side of the road. People who don’t move over are most likely not “ignoring” the law. Rather, they are being cautious. You can’t necessarily move over safely at all times.

“A dead cop is sad. But a horrible tragedy doesn’t warrant a law that puts other drivers at risk and is almost impossible to enforce.

 I find it reasonable. Using the language “A dead cop is sad” is not the best way of expressing this but it doesn’t rise to the level of hate she is receiving. Using in the title “Dead Cops Make Bad Law,” is equally insensitive and unfortunate because it allows those who support Blue Lives Matter to focus on emotion and not reason.