Mastriano, Ward Propose Revisions to Steer Clear Law

HARRISBURG – Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) and Sen. Kim Ward (R-39) are proposing revisions to the state’s Steer Clear Law in an effort to protect emergency service responders, such as tow truck drivers and law enforcement.

Enacted in 2006, the Steer Clear law requires drivers to move over or slow down when they encounter an emergency scene, traffic stop or disabled vehicle.

According to the law, when approaching or passing an emergency response area, a motorist, unless otherwise directed by an emergency service responder, is required to pass by in a lane not adjacent to that of the emergency response area, if possible or, if passing in a nonadjacent lane is impossible, illegal or unsafe, pass the emergency response area at a careful and prudent reduced speed reasonable for safely passing the emergency response area.

Senate Bill 1281 would rebrand the “Steer Clear Law” as the “Move Over Law” to clarify how the motoring public should react when approaching or passing an emergency response area.

“Over the past few weeks, there have been several roadway accidents resulting in a tow truck driver’s death and injuries to law enforcement personnel,” said Mastriano. “While the General Assembly took steps to increase penalties via Act 20 of 2017, more action is necessary to deter roadway mishaps.”

“The goal of our proposal is simple: ‘Move Over’ when you approach an emergency response area, or risk facing increased fines and penalties,” said Ward, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee. “Our emergency service responders risk their lives every day when answering calls on our roadways. We must ensure the safety and protection of our emergency service responders, as well as the motoring public, when approaching emergency scenes, traffic stops or disabled vehicles.”

The proposal by Mastriano and Ward 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 new requirements for drivers approaching an emergency response area.

Violators of the Steer Clear law commit a summary offense, with penalties including a fine of up to $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third or subsequent offense.

Repeat offenders may have their license suspended, and violators who cause bodily injury or the death of an emergency service provider face additional fines of up to $10,000. In addition, fines for several traffic violations are doubled when committed in an emergency response area when first responders are present. 

According to data from the PA State Police, 7,075 citations were issued in 2018-2019 for Section 3327 (Duty of Driver in Emergency Response Area) violations. Additionally, there were 3,204 warnings issued during that same timeframe.

“The steeper fines and point assessment introduced in this legislation should act as a deterrent against repeat 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.”