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Understanding Montana's "Move Over" law

Nick Visser
William Casie Allen
Posted at 8:01 AM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 10:11:03-05

BILLINGS — With the frigid temperatures and falling snow, roads are icy across Montana. In these conditions, it’s important for drivers to re-educate themselves with the laws of the road, especially the "Move Over" law.

There’s always been a Move Over law in the state of Montana, but after the deaths of two Hanser’s Automotive employees last year, the law was changed to also protect tow truck drivers.

William Casie Allen of Reed Point, 28 years old, and Nicholas Ryan Visser of Billings, 37, were killed when they were hit by a passing vehicle while trying to recover a vehicle in the snow on I-90 east of Columbus.

“They’ve also increased some of the fines for people that don’t slow down and move over and included the endangerment charge as well,” said Hanser’s Automotive dispatch supervisor Sara Hauorth.

The fine for a first offense of not slowing down or moving over for a vehicle jumped from $25 to $100. It’s one of the highest fines in the country for a Move Over Law.

Not slowing down or moving over for vehicles is considered to be reckless driving.

Even though the revised Move Over law was enacted in October of this year, Hauorth believes it’s still falling on deaf ears.

“You would think that you know, the deaths of people would make a difference, but for some reason, it doesn’t hit home until somebody’s in that situation,” Hauorth said.

In the middle of winter, where perilous road conditions are on every corner, it’s harder to pump the brakes.

“With icy roads and stuff, it makes it 100 times worse,” Hauorth said.

Preparing for the worst is key in this kind of weather. Hauorth urges drivers to keep an emergency kit in their cars at all times.

“It’s got jumper cables, it’s got some cones, it’s got a tow strap, a flashlight. It’s got a first aid kit,” said Hauorth.

She recommends bringing extra blankets, clothes, water, and snacks just in case drivers get stranded. If that happens, pull over, put your hazards on, and take those cones out.

“Call someone. It’s best to call a tow company if you need a tow,” said Hauorth.

If you’re passing by a stopped vehicle on the side of the road, slow down and switch lanes. It could save a life. Hauorth hopes that no one else has to go through what the employees at Hansen’s Automotive went through last year.

“The dispatcher that was on call that night and sent the drivers out, she feels a little responsible for it. It hit everybody really hard, you know, so I don’t know. It’s not a good situation,” Hauorth said.

Here is the full text of the law

Operation Of Vehicles On Approach Of Authorized Emergency Vehicles Or Law Enforcement Vehicles -- Approaching Stationary Emergency Vehicles Or Law Enforcement Vehicles -- Reckless Endangerment Of Emergency Personnel

61-8-346. Operation of vehicles on approach of authorized emergency vehicles or law enforcement vehicles -- approaching stationary emergency vehicles or law enforcement vehicles -- reckless endangerment of emergency personnel. (1) Upon the approach of an authorized emergency vehicle making use of audible and visual signals meeting the requirements of 61-9-402 or of a law enforcement vehicle properly and lawfully making use of an audible signal only, the operator of every other 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 any intersection and shall stop and remain in that position until the authorized emergency vehicle or law enforcement vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer or highway patrol officer.

(2) This section does not relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle or law enforcement vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway.

(3) On approaching and passing a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, law enforcement vehicle, or tow truck that is displaying visible signals of flashing or rotating amber, blue, red, or green lights or any temporary sign advising of an emergency scene or accident ahead, the operator of the approaching vehicle shall:

(a) cautiously and in a careful manner reduce the vehicle's speed to a reasonably lower and safe speed appropriate to the road and visual conditions or to the temporarily posted speed limit, but to a careful and prudent speed if a temporarily posted speed has not been posted;

(b) proceed with caution; and

(c) if possible considering safety and traffic conditions:

(i) move to a lane that is not adjacent to the lane in which the authorized emergency vehicle,law enforcement vehicle, or tow truck is located;

(ii) move as far away from the authorized emergency vehicle,law enforcement vehicle, or tow truck as possible; or

(iii) follow flagger instructions or instructions on sign boards.

(4) An operator of a vehicle who violates subsection (3) commits the offense of reckless endangerment of emergency personnel.