How many of us change lanes when we see a tow truck, Caltrans vehicle or police car parked alongside the road? How many of us know that’s the right thing to do?

One tow truck driver sent this plea. We forwarded it to the CHP for some practical advice as well as “the letter of the law.”

We are a local tow company, and lately we have noticed drivers driving dangerous around us while we are working on the sides of the roads. California has the “move over law,” but no one knows it nor do they obey it. Kind of a joke. The fine is only $50 and the carpool lane violation is over $300.

This is a major safety issue. Our drivers have had many close calls on the roads and freeways. We have seen people speed up when passing, seen them drift over the white line towards the tow trucks and swerve over at the last min. Even police officers don’t obey it. Any way you could do a little write up about this? — Anytime Towing

The CHP has produced articles and public service announcements informing the public about this law, and officers have made stops for this violation, said Officer Jonathan Sloat of the California Highway Patrol. But first they have to observe the violation.

“When the ‘victim’ is one of our own officers, in many circumstances it is not feasible or safe to run to our vehicle and try to chase down the violator.  If the ‘violator’ is a law enforcement vehicle, it would be prudent to inform that agency if it was a serious safety issue.

“Our best advice for anyone who works along the side of the road, as we do: No single law will protect us 100% of the time. We have to watch our own backs.”

Here’s the CA Vehicle Code that applies:

21809.  (a) A person driving a vehicle on a freeway approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is displaying emergency lights, a stationary tow truck that is displaying flashing amber warning lights, or a stationary marked Department of Transportation vehicle that is displaying flashing amber warning lights, shall approach with due caution and, before passing in a lane immediately adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck, or Department of Transportation vehicle, absent other direction by a peace officer, proceed to do one of the following:

(1) Make a lane change into an available lane not immediately adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck, or Department of Transportation vehicle, with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, if practicable and not prohibited by law.

(2) If the maneuver described in paragraph (1) would be unsafe or impracticable, slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing weather, road, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions.


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