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Houghtaling & Downey Remind Drivers to “Move Over” Ahead of Busy Memorial Day Weekend

With more than one million New Jersey drivers expected to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend, Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey are reminding drivers that they must move over if they spot an emergency vehicle on the side of the road.

According to AAA, more than one million New Jersey residents will travel this Memorial Day Weekend, nearly 5 percent more than last year and the most in more than a dozen years.

The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 24 to Monday, May 28.

“We want people to get to their destinations safely. We want the same for our roadside emergency workers,” said Houghtaling. “If you’re on the slow lane and spot an emergency vehicle on the side of the road, switch lanes. If you can’t switch lanes, slow down. It’s really that simple.”

“We’re expecting more people on the road this holiday weekend than in previous years. We are asking drivers to be mindful of their surroundings for their safety, and the safety of others,” said Downey. “The Move Over law is very straightforward. Move over if you can; slow down if you can’t.”

The Move Over law requires motorists to move over, when possible, when they spot service vehicles including police cars, firetrucks and tow trucks with flashing lights.

“Changing lanes and slowing down may seem like a small thing, but moving over for a police officer, a maintenance worker or an emergency responder can save lives. It’s so simple. Slow down, move over and be mindful. If you are driving this holiday weekend, please, mind the Move Over Law. The consequences for violating it could be life and death,” said Donna Setaro, the mother of late-New Jersey State Trooper Marc Castellano.

“The Move Over Law is a simple yet vital traffic law that we expect all drivers to adhere to. If you see an emergency responder, a police officer, a maintenance worker or any other professional responding to an incident on the side of the road, safely change lanes. If you are unable to do so in a safe manner, please slow down as you pass. We want to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend. Please do you part in ensuring our police officers and emergency responders do as well,” said Wayne Blanchard, President of the New Jersey State Troopers Union.

Houghtaling and Downey are currently sponsoring a bill to strengthen the law by imposing motor vehicle penalty points for violations of the law. They also sponsored a law to increase observance of the Move Over law via public awareness programs and electronic message road signs.

Under New Jersey’s “Move Over” law, drivers are required to reduce the speed of their vehicles and change lanes when approaching an authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck or highway maintenance, emergency service or sanitation vehicle that is displaying flashing, blinking or alternating emergency lights. Violators are subject to a fine of between $100 and $500.

The bill (A-3890) would require two motor vehicle penalty points to be assessed when a driver violates the Move Over law. The accumulation of motor vehicle penalty points may result in additional penalties, including the imposition of surcharges and a license suspension.

Houghtaling and Downey said they were inspired by Donna Setaro and her tireless campaign to raise awareness about New Jersey’s Move Over law. Setaro’s son, New Jersey State Trooper Marc Castellano, was struck and killed while standing on the shoulder of Route 195 in 2010. Setaro has since brought her “Move Over Awareness Campaign,” or MARC, to thousands of people all over the state, and last month reached her personal goal of spreading her message to 100,000 people.

“People may not realize the importance of the Move Over law until tragedy strikes. Trooper Castellano paid for this mistake with his life,” said Houghtaling. “There is good reason why this law is on the books. Adding points to a person’s driver’s record will help serve as a further deterrent.”

“The Move Over law is very straightforward and yet people continue to break it, putting themselves and others in danger,” said Downey. “No one wants points on their driving records. Toughening the penalty will send a clear message to motorists about the importance of the law and serve as a better deterrent against distracted driving, which is the main cause of crashes in the state.”