In 2009 the Florida Legislature bowed to repeated lobbying and complaints by law enforcement officials and amended a statute meant just to force motorists to yield to emergency vehicles. In an effort to protect law enforcement on the roadways, the statute was amended with a new subsection that read,

“If an authorized emergency vehicle displaying any visual signals is parked on the roadside, a sanitation vehicle is performing a task related to the provision of sanitation services on the roadside, a utility service vehicle is performing a task related to the provision of utility services on the roadside, or a wrecker displaying amber rotating or flashing lights is performing a recovery or loading on the roadside, the driver of every other vehicle, as soon as it is safe:

1. Shall vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle, sanitation vehicle, utility service vehicle, or wrecker when driving on an interstate highway or other highway with two or more lanes traveling in the direction of the emergency vehicle, sanitation vehicle, utility service vehicle, or wrecker, except when otherwise directed by a law enforcement officer. If such movement cannot be safely accomplished, the driver shall reduce speed as provided in subparagraph 2.

2. Shall slow to a speed that is 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit when the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour or greater; or travel at 5 miles per hour when the posted speed limit is 20 miles per hour or less, when driving on a two-lane road, except when otherwise directed by a law enforcement officer.”

This amendment has taken motorists by surprise all over the state. Some law enforcement agencies have even set up “stepped up enforcement zones” where a vehicle is off the side of the road with its emergency equipment activated. Any motorist observed not obeying the statute is stopped and cited. Many other agencies are pairing up their vehicles so one can observe the other on an unrelated traffic stop. Although this statute clearly fulfills its purpose in protecting law enforcement officers who are dealing with motorists on traffic stops, it also has become a boon for extra revenue collection.

Thus, it is important for you, the motorist, to continue to be aware of the circumstances around you, especially if you observe any emergency vehicle on the side of the road. It is important to note that this statute does not only apply to law enforcement vehicles, but to any “…emergency vehicle, sanitation vehicle, utility service vehicle, or wrecker.” Although you may feel that a tow truck, road ranger, garbage truck, or phone company vehicle doesn’t reserve your respect in this way, the law still applies. A good rule of thumb is that if you see an overhead rotating or flashing light (whether it is blue, red, or yellow), you have a duty to move over or slow down.

2 Comments

Leave a reply