General Assembly passes bill requiring drivers to slow down for nonemergency vehicles in breakdown lane


STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today passed legislation introduced by Sen. David P. Tikoian (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, Lincoln, North Providence) and Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6 Providence, North Providence) that would require motorists to slow down or leave a buffer lane when nonemergency vehicles are parked on the shoulder of highways.

The bill (2023-S 0088A, 2023-H 5294A) would amend a law first enacted by the General Assembly in 2008 that requires drivers to slow down or move over for emergency vehicles with flashing lights that are parked in the breakdown lane.

“The Move Over law was initially designed to protect first responders who risk their lives on the shoulders of our highways. The expansion of this legislation will also protect tow truck operators, highway maintenance vehicles as well as motorists who become disabled on the highway and subject to the same dangers of first responders,” said Senator Tikoian, a 23-year veteran of the Rhode Island State Police. “Anyone who has ever required roadside assistance on a freeway knows firsthand how harrowing it is to be broken down on the side of the road and have cars passing by at high speeds, in some cases in excessively high speeds.”

A survey by the American Automobile Association, which has long advocated for Move Over laws, finds that 97% of motorists are concerned about vehicles passing at high speeds when they are stopped on the side of the road. This, coupled with the rising number of roadway fatalities, reinforces that motorists need to slow down and move over for all vehicles on the roadside, regardless of if it is an emergency vehicle or tow provider with flashing lights or a disabled vehicle belonging to a driver.

“Being on the side of the roadway is dangerous for everyone,” said Representative Hull, a Providence police officer. “Since 2015, 1,600 people have been killed in crashes in the breakdown lane. Thousands more have been injured. This is a growing problem due to more distracted driving and more impaired driving. By expanding this law, we’re protecting all motorists and passengers who find themselves in disabled vehicles on the roadside.”

The measure now moves to the governor’s office.