New Law: Slow Down, Steer Clear of Emergency Vehicles
HELENA – Beginning Monday, October 1, Montana motorists who fail to slow down and steer clear of stopped emergency vehicles may face citations and fines.
House Bill 391, signed into law March 29, 2001, says that drivers approaching stopped emergency vehicles must slow down and proceed with caution. Motorists are also expected to move into a lane away from the emergency vehicles, if such a move is possible and safe. If a lane change is impossible or unsafe, drivers must slow down and proceed cautiously.
“Emergency workers do important work, often under difficult, even dangerous conditions. House Bill 391 provides crucial protection for them,” said Col. Bert Obert, chief administrator of the Montana Highway Patrol. “Constantly watching for other traffic while conducting a traffic stop or assisting someone in need becomes a safety issue for everyone. Every year emergency workers are killed by inattentive drivers.”
Specifically, the law addresses a “stationary authorized emergency vehicle,” one displaying flashing or rotating colored lights. Examples are law enforcement vehicles, towing and fire trucks and ambulances. Drivers who fail to comply with the new law could be fined up to $100 for the first offense, up to $200 for the second offense within one year and up to $500 for a third offense within a year.
The law takes effect more than three years after a deadly accident near Bozeman. Five emergency vehicles were parked on the roadside, helping remove an injured victim of a one-car crash. Another car approached and did not slow down, striking three of the five emergency vehicles. Both occupants of the speeding car were killed.
In an effort to educate Montana motorists, the Montana Highway Patrol published 75,000 brochures to explain the new law. Brochures are available at driver license exam stations and at all Highway Patrol offices.