RVers Endanger Another RVer’s Life While Breaking the Law

The RV community is usually a close-knit group that is friendly and helpful to each other.

They come to help, share tips and tricks, and selflessly offer their knowledge, experience, and resources. It is not uncommon for them to help another camper if they are having difficulty getting into a campsite or maneuvering their vehicle through a campsite.

Unfortunately, that was not the case with one traveler recently. On the contrary, they had just the opposite experience. They saw motorhome after motorhome ignoring a very important law that was enacted to protect all road users.

What law did they violate, and how can you avoid doing the same? Let’s find out!

Travelers report stressful and dangerous roadside experiences

Some travel days don’t go quite as planned. Believe us, we’re just like everyone else and have experienced traffic jams, mechanical breakdowns and other problems.

However, Terry Wilgus has reported on her and her husband’s stressful travel day that would have caused many RVers to throw in the towel.

The couple had two tires blow out on their fifth RV. This left them stranded on Interstate-65 south of Birmingham, Alabama.

As if two blown tires weren’t enough, they were also run over by other motorists because they didn’t slow down or swerve to keep a safe distance.

Terry said many RVs “didn’t pull over for us, even if they had permission to do so safely.” She said she knew someone from above was watching out for her and her husband in this stressful and dangerous situation.

“A little human kindness can go a long way,” Terry said. You never know when you might need that extra space even on the road.

What is the “Move Over Law?”

The “Move Over” law is a traffic safety law that requires motorists to change lanes when approaching an emergency or police vehicle on the side of the road. AAA estimates that 71% of Americans are unaware of Move Over laws.

All 50 states have laws requiring vehicles to change lanes when approaching an emergency or law enforcement vehicle. This has been the case since Hawaii became the 50th state to enact a “Move Over” law in 2012.

However, as we will show you later, these laws vary from state to state regarding disabled, utility, and sanitation vehicles.

We’ll go into more detail about the potential penalties for violating these laws later. But spoiler alert: In some states, you could face hefty fines and possible jail time. So you should definitely familiarize yourself with these laws.

What is the purpose of passing laws?

Passing laws were enacted to protect the safety of emergency responders and law enforcement officers. These laws create safer conditions for emergency personnel working on the side of the road or on the road. By increasing the distance between them and traffic, there is less risk of being struck by passing vehicles.

Unfortunately, AAA estimates that despite these laws, about 23 workers and first responders die each year and hundreds are seriously injured while assisting disabled vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points out the dangers: 47 law enforcement officers were killed in traffic-related incidents in 2017.

What types of vehicles are affected by passing laws?

As mentioned earlier, all 50 U.S. states have passing laws that apply to law enforcement, emergency vehicles, and first responders. However, in less than three-quarters of the states, these laws also apply to tow trucks.

Even fewer states have laws protecting disabled vehicles parked on the side of the road. Generally, “move over” laws apply only to emergency responders. Fortunately, there are more and more states that are extending these laws to disabled vehicles.

In the state of Tennessee, for example, motorists must move over for vehicles on the side of the road with their turn signal on if it is safe to do so. Unfortunately, not all states are so generous.

But even if your state does not mandate right-of-way for disabled vehicles, you should follow the same principles in the interest of everyone’s safety.

What are the penalties for violating passing laws?

As with most driving laws, penalties for passing violations vary from state to state. Most states impose large fines or even add points to the driving record. This usually results in higher insurance premiums or the requirement to attend traffic school.

If a hit to the wallet isn’t enough, some states go further and require traffic offenders to perform hours or days of community service. In addition, a driver’s license can be suspended for up to 90 days.

Some states also impose jail sentences of 30 to 90 days. A stint in jail can open some people’s eyes to their dangerous behavior.

What should you do if you are stuck in a vehicle?

If you’re stuck on the side of the road like Terry and her husband, there are several things you can do to increase your safety. Does that guarantee your safety? Not at all.

But it can help you stay as safe as possible until you can get back on the road.

Get to a safe place

If your vehicle comes to a stop while you are driving, move to a safe location as quickly and safely as possible. By getting out of the way, you can avoid further accidents or injuries and ensure that you and your passengers are not endangered by passing traffic.

If you can safely reach an exit, shoulder, or rest area, do so. Sometimes, however, you have no choice but to park on the side of a busy highway.

In this case, make sure you park your entire vehicle off the roadway. The risk of being hit by oncoming traffic is greater the closer you are to the roadway.

Remember: Do you know the laws in your state before you try to triple tow?

Use hazard lights and be visible

If you have an emergency, the first thing you should do is turn on your hazard lights. You’ll alert other drivers that you have a problem and increase your visibility.

For this reason, we recommend carrying a roadside emergency kit. Many of these kits include a warning triangle, high-visibility vest and other essentials to keep you and your passengers safe.

You may carry your emergency kit thousands of miles and never need it. However, if you do need it, you’ll be glad you have it. These compact and inexpensive pieces of equipment can save the day in an emergency. Even if you have limited space, it’s worth making room for such equipment.

Stay in your vehicle

While it may be tempting to jump out of your vehicle and survey the situation, it usually is not. When you get out of your car, you drastically increase the risk of being struck by a passing vehicle.

Stay in your car and keep your seat belt fastened. Your seat belt will help you stay in your seat if you are hit by a passing vehicle.

Call for help

Remain seated in your vehicle with your seat belt fastened, pick up your phone and call for help.

Depending on the situation, you can call 911 and ask a police officer to come to the scene. They may arrive with blue lights on and force traffic to slow down or swerve.

If you subscribe to a roadside assistance service, you should call them now. However, don’t expect help to arrive quickly. Some travelers have had to wait several hours for someone to arrive.

If you are physically able and have the necessary tools, you will probably get back on the road faster if you can change the tire yourself. However, only do this in a safe place away from traffic.

Pro Tip: Which roadside assistance services are worth subscribing to? Take a look at our top recommendations for RV roadside assistance!

A woman on the side of the road requesting roadside assistance.

Be aware of your surroundings

If you are stuck in a vehicle on the side of the road, pay attention to your surroundings. Look for landmarks, road signs, or other recognizable features. This may be helpful for emergency services to find you.

Also, be aware of your surroundings, especially at night. The person who stops to offer you help may have ulterior motives and may not be as concerned for your safety as you may think.

Ultimately, your safety is the most important thing. If you don’t feel comfortable accepting help or assistance from a stranger, you don’t have to accept it.

Stay warm and hydrated

You need to keep in mind that you could be stuck on the side of the road for an extended period of time. You need to keep yourself and your fellow riders warm and hydrated. This may be more difficult at some times than others.

What you should take with you when you travel depends largely on the weather. If you are traveling in the winter, you should have blankets and other cold weather gear in the car.

If you are traveling in the summer, you should always have a case or jug of water with you. You never know when these supplies will come in handy or save the day in a tough roadside situation.

Always obey the laws on overtaking

Laws vary from state to state, but in all 50 states, the rule is to behave like a decent human being. Keep as much distance as possible, whether it’s an emergency, commercial or passenger vehicle on the side of the road.

We’ve found ourselves on the shoulder of the road and know that it can be very scary trying to fix a problem while cars are whizzing by just a foot or two away. Do yourself and other road users a favor and always obey the “Move Over” laws.

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