New Traffic Laws in New York for 2012 – Part I

The latest edition of AAA New York’s Car & Travel magazine set forth three new traffic laws that will go into effect in 2012. These laws are: (1) an expansion of the Move Over Law to include tow trucks and other hazard vehicles; (2) a rise from 2 to 3 points on a driver license for using a handheld phone or other portable electronic device while driving; and (3) a ban from being a school bus driver for anyone convicted of a wide range of crimes. New York State joins 41 other states that have adopted “move over” laws that include tow trucks.

The Move Over Law went into effect this year as a safety measure to avoid motor vehicle accidents and protect police officers who are handling an emergency on roads and highways by requiring passing motor vehicles to use “due care” by reducing speed when approaching stopped emergency vehicles. On highways and parkways drivers must move from the lane immediately adjacent to the tow truck unless they cannot safely do so. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, over the past 10 years more than 150 police officers nationwide have died when being struck by high-speed moving vehicles while rendering road-side emergency assistance.

But the risk is not limited to police officers. According to the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame & Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 50 tow-truck drivers are killed each year. In 2011, a tow-truck driver was killed while working on the side of the4 Cross Island Parkway in Bayside, Queens.

One cannot argue with the enhanced safety this expansion of the law provides, but I get concerned when approaching a vehicle with turret lights flashing while I’m driving in the center lane because I can’t be sure that someone in the right lane will not move suddenly in front of me because they are afraid that they will get a ticket for not changing lanes.

I’m amazed by the insistence of drivers in using phones and other devices to text, e-mail, surf the web and other uses in the face of the barrage of information detailing the dangers of distracted driving. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said earlier this month that distracted driving is still underreported, and he urged Congress to enact a national law against texting while driving. Until a driver has received the 3 points, I highly doubt that the increase in points will deter anyone from texting while driving.

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