On February 13th, 2019, Michigan’s Move Over Law (Public Act 349 of 2018) took effect and added additional civil fines to the existing penalties for not taking proper precautions around emergency vehicles on Michigan roads. As a driver in Michigan, it is critical that you are aware of your responsibilities when encountering ambulances or fire trucks on a public road before you incur significant fines or, even worse, impede the operations of an emergency rescue.
EMERGENCY VEHICLE IN MOTION
“Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle equipped with not less than 1 lighted flashing, rotating, or oscillating lamp exhibiting a red or blue light visible under normal atmospheric condition from a distance of 500 feet to the front of the vehicle and when the driver is giving audible signal by siren, exhaust whistle, or bell, [t]he driver of another vehicle shall yield the right of way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway, clear of an intersection, and shall stop and remain in that position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer.” MCL 257.652(1)(a).
For purposes of this statute, an “authorized emergency vehicle” means “[v]ehicles of the fire department, police vehicles, ambulances, privately owned motor vehicles of volunteer or paid fire fighters, or volunteer members of an emergency rescue unit if authorized by the chief of an organized fire department, a county sheriff, or the director of the department of state police, or privately owned motor vehicles of volunteer or paid members of a life support agency licensed by the department of licensing and regulatory affairs if authorized by the life support agency.” MCL 257.2(1)(a).
Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle is a civil infraction punishable by a fine. In addition, two points will be added to your Michigan driving record.
STATIONARY EMERGENCY VEHICLE
When a driver approaches a stationary authorized emergency vehicle with oscillating lights that are flashing or rotating, the driver shall exhibit due care and caution in one of the following:
- “On any public roadway with at least 2 adjacent lanes proceeding in the same direction of the stationary authorized emergency vehicle, the driver of the approaching vehicle shall proceed with caution, reduce his or her speed by at least 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit, and yield the right-of-way by moving into a lane at least 1 moving lane or 2 vehicle widths apart from the stationary authorized emergency vehicle, unless directed otherwise by a police officer.” MCL 257.653a(1)(a).
- IF “movement to an adjacent lane or 2 vehicle widths apart is not possible due to weather, road conditions, or the immediate presence of vehicular or pedestrian traffic in parallel moving lanes” OR the “public roadway that does not have at least 2 adjacent lanes proceeding in the same direction as the stationary authorized emergency vehicle”, THEN “the approaching vehicle shall proceed with due care and caution and reduce his or her speed by at least 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit, or as directed by a police officer.” MCL 257.653a(1)(b).
- HOWEVER, “[t]he operator of a vehicle upon a highway that has been divided into 2 roadways by leaving an intervening space, or by a physical barrier or clearly indicated dividing sections so constructed as to impede vehicular traffic, is not required to proceed with caution, reduce his or her speed, or yield the right-of-way for an authorized emergency vehicle that is stopped across the dividing space, barrier, or section.” MCL 257.653a(5).
- In addition to authorized emergency vehicles, Michigan’s Move Over Law (Public Act 349 of 2018) requires drivers to also reduce speed by 10 miles per hour and move 1 lane or 2 vehicle widths when approaching and passing “a stationary solid waste collection vehicle, a utility service vehicle, or a road maintenance vehicle that is giving a visual signal by means of flashing, rotating, or oscillating amber lights”. MCL 257.653b.
The penalties for violating this statute are as follows:
- FOR OFFENSES OCCURRING BEFORE APRIL 14th, 2019, IF NO INJURIES OR DEATH RESULT, the penalty is a misdemeanor conviction punishable by a fine up to $500.00 or up to 90 days in jail, or both, and four points are added to your Michigan driving record. MCL 257.653a(2).
- FOR OFFENSES OCCURRING APRIL 14th, 2019 AND AFTER, IF NO INJURIES OR DEATH RESULT, the penalty is a civil infraction and an additional civil fine of $400.00, and four points are added to your Michigan driving record. MCL 257.653a(2).
- If a violation of this statute causes injury to a police officer, firefighter, or other emergency response personnel in the immediate area of the stationary authorized emergency vehicle is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or both, and six points are added to your Michigan driving record. MCL 257.653a(3).
- If a violation of this statute causes death to a police officer, firefighter, or other emergency response personnel in the immediate area of the stationary authorized emergency vehicle is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of not more than $7,500.00 or by imprisonment for not more than 15 years, or both, and six points are added to your Michigan driving record. MCL 257.653a(4).
A person accused of a civil infraction is not required to admit responsibility and can request a formal or informal hearing before a district court judge or magistrate. It is possible that the court can dismiss the violation if you can show that the emergency vehicle did not have its lights activated, there was not enough space to move over due to oncoming traffic, or compliance with this act could have caused a serious traffic collision. An attorney can help you present an effective defense or may be able to negotiate a resolution with the prosecutor to a lesser civil infraction with lower consequences.
If an injury or death is a result of the violation, you will be formally arraigned before the judge on felony criminal charges and can face thousands of dollars in fines and a lengthy incarceration. In addition, a conviction for a felony in which a motor vehicle was used will result in the Michigan Secretary of State suspending the offender’s driver’s license for one year. MCL 257.319(1)(d). You will definitely need a skilled criminal defense lawyer in your corner to protect your life and liberty from these adverse consequences.
If you need legal representation for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle or any traffic violation, do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC today.