HELENA - 'Slow down and move over' is the slogan taught to drivers to help keep people working on the side of the highway safe, however, that's not always what happens.
House Bill 470, the 'Yield-Move Over-Slow Down' law introduced by Rep. Ross Fitzgerald aims to make Montana's roadways safer by making the law more consistently enforceable.
The bill, if passed, will create rules that drivers must follow when passing law enforcement and highway workers and their vehicles while they are working, moving or stationary.
- If a temporary speed limit is posted, drivers must adhere to that.
- If a temporary speed limit is not available on the interstate, drivers must slow down to 20 miles per hour under the usual speed limit and move over if possible, or to half of the posted speed limit if they can not move over.
- If a temporary speed limit is not available on a county road or state highway, drivers must slow down to 30 miles below the usual speed limit if they can move lanes, or half of the posted speed limit if they can't.
“In 2021, the speeds were removed from the move-over statute, leaving a very subjective standard for issuing one of these citations. And if someone chooses to challenge one of these citations, courts were throwing out evidence, because it was too subjective," said Jessie Luther.
If the bill is passed, drivers who fail to comply with the rules could be cited for reckless endangerment of emergency personnel or highway workers and if convicted could face fines between $100 to $500, up to 90 days imprisoned or both.
But why is the legislature looking at narrowly tailoring the law? To make it easier to consistently enforce and keep those working on the side of a highway safe.
“Things happen when we're parked. If you recall, two years or four years ago, two workers were killed in the Columbus area. This year already two wreckers have been totaled out in a crash on ice out by Drummond. So it's a high-risk area. We need to we need the protection we need to have the signs out and all that stuff,” said Bob Gilbert.