Last week, a panel of Missouri lawmakers approved an amended version of our state's "move over" law, sending SB 568 on to await votes in both the House and the Senate. The current version of the law (Section 304.022) requires drivers to yield the right of way, pull to the right and stop for moving emergency vehicles using sirens and/or red and blue lights. Additionally, under existing law, drivers must change lanes when approaching and passing non-moving emergency vehicles. SB 568 expands the "move over" statute to include protection for stationary Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) vehicles with flashing white or amber lights.
Missouri State Senator Mike Parson, who sponsored the bill, says the expansion is of special significance. "The idea behind this bill is to protect both motorists and state employees on our sometimes dangerous roadways," Senator Parson said in a news release. "We already have laws which require drivers to slow down while driving through MoDOT construction zones, and we have a law that requires vehicles to slow down when approaching emergency vehicles. We need to give the same courtesy and respect to our transportation employees, who keep our roads safe and clear - a valuable and vital resource to our state."
SB 568 also broadens the definition of "emergency vehicle" to include "any vehicle owned by the commission and operated by a Department of Transportation employee that is marked as an emergency response or motorist assistance vehicle." Interestingly, the new law does not apply to MoDOT mowing vehicles, which will be out in increased numbers starting May 14, when roadside mowing projects are scheduled to begin throughout the state.
Even so, MoDOT officials urge drivers to be prepared to encounter mowing operations in the months ahead, and to approach these operations with extreme caution. Moving over for mowing operations may not be required by law, but it's certainly a smart, safe practice.
Marisa Brown-Ellison, information manager for MoDOT's Northeast District, concurs. "Obviously it's safer for them (motorists) to move over and just do so out of courtesy to give them a little bit of room," Brown-Ellison told the Hannibal Courier Post. "[But] if they don't have the white and amber lights flashing and they're not parked, then it's not a legal issue."
Drivers can expect to see MoDOT tractors and "follow trucks" on roadways from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday (and on some Fridays in May) until late October, when the last of 3 mowing cycles is complete.