Legislation to strengthen Pa’s Steer Clear Law gets support

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33) and State Senator Kim Ward (R-39) to strengthen the state’s “Steer Clear Law” and better protect tow truck operators, law enforcement, Emergency Medical Services and other first responders was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Senate Transportation Committee.

In addition to adding stiffer penalties and raising public awareness, Senate Bill 1281 would rebrand the “Steer Clear Law” as the “Move Over Law” to clarify how motorists should react when approaching or passing an emergency response area.  Examples of an emergency response area are when a police officer is conducting a routine traffic stop or when a tow truck operator is helping with a disabled vehicle 

According to PA State Police, 7,075 citations were issued in 2018-2019 for “Steer Clear/Move Over” violations, in addition to 3,204 warnings.

“We have a problem in Pennsylvania,” said Mastriano. “This needs to end now. Our legislation is a multi-pronged strategy to save lives, and it starts with rebranding the law to send the message. It couldn’t be clearer: ‘Move Over’.”

Senate Bill 1281 would establish a new point system for a “Move Over” violation; double the fines for a summary offense; strengthen public awareness by requiring PennDOT to educate the public throughout the year; and implement a new speed restriction for drivers approaching an emergency response area.

“I want to emphasize an important message to every driver out there: ‘Move Over’ and slow down when you are approaching an emergency response area,” said Ward, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee. “Our first responders are there for us in times of need, and now they need us to pass Senate Bill 1281.”

There are more than 350 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania every day that put first responders in harm’s way. Already in 2020, 35 first responders have been killed nationwide while working roadside incidents.

Committee passage of Senate Bill 1281 came one day after a procession of first responders and rally outside the Capitol to urge enactment of the “Move Over Law”. The rally included the two bill sponsors, Senator John DiSanto (R-15) and fellow lawmakers, along with first responders who survived a roadside crash and family members of those killed in the line of duty.

“The steeper fines and point assessment introduced in this legislation should act as a deterrent against offenders, while also providing another opportunity to educate drivers on the ‘Move Over Law’,” said Mastriano. “It is my hope that this legislative effort helps saves lives.”