Move Over Michigan: Marquette County prosecutor explains history, logic of ‘Move Over’ law

Prosecutor Matt Wiese said every second counts.
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 6:21 PM EST
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - A Marquette County prosecutor explained the importance of Michigan’s ‘Move Over’ law. Prosecutor Matt Wiese said every second counts.

“You’re driving a steel machine down the road that could weigh a ton or two tons,” said Wiese. “A split-second can make all of the difference in the world.”

Wiese has worked three decades in law within the courthouse and has served as a prosecutor for the last 11 years. He said he has watched the number of drivers breaking the Move Over Law only grow.

“When I started, this law didn’t even exist and because of the [road]… a traffic stop can be one of the most dangerous things for a law enforcement officer to be at,” Wiese said, “and so this is why the law was passed, to provide safety to not only them but to anybody who is stopped alongside the road.”

While similar versions of the Move Over Law exist across the country, Wiese said Michigan’s is more specific.

“The history of that law is basically if you see flashing lights on the roadway, either ambulance, fire or police, you are supposed to pull over if they are moving,” Wiese explained. “If they are on the side of the road, you are supposed to slow down to at least 10 miles below the speed limit and pull over if you can safely pull over a full lane to give them a wide berth.”

Wiese added that the repercussions can be hefty.

“At the bare minimum, it’s a $400 fine and two points on your license, which is going to affect your insurance because that will get reported to your insurer and your insurance will go up,” Wiese added. “It could also lead to a careless driving ticket depending on the behavior of the vehicle or even reckless driving if they were driving excessively dangerous and didn’t pull over.”

This isn’t a new law. According to the prosecutor as well as law enforcement, when you go to the books, you can see that the last time that this was tweaked was back in 2019. The Michigan Move Over Law doesn’t just apply to emergency vehicles stopped alongside the road at ongoing traffic stops. It also applies to flashing lights of other vehicles coming either towards you or behind you while you are driving.

According to AAA, 25 percent of people in Michigan don’t know what these laws are.

As for other flashing lights, Wiese noted the legislature saw the wisdom in expanding the law to cover utility, garbage, and tow trucks.

The latest update in 2019 refers back to what is called Public Act 349, which reduced the consequences of years’ past. The law changed to make jail time no longer an option for solely breaking the Move Over Law and fines of $500 dollars were reduced to $400 dollars. Additionally, what was once a four-point license violation is now only two-points.

Although no ongoing legislation for any more updates are in the works, the possibility of stiffer penalties exists. Wiese adds, “I’m sure they will look at traffic safety matters. It’s something that prosecutors lobby for all the time across the state. I know law enforcement does.”

According to AAA, nearly 350 people die in the country every year from standing outside a disabled vehicle on a highway, waiting for help and 97 percent of drivers are concerned about speeding traffic while getting stopped or helped by first responders. To address this, AAA lauded the “Move Over for Me” campaign in October 2022.

As for any exceptions to the Move Over Law itself, Wiese said there’s only one.: “The only [an] exception is if it is a divided highway and it is on the opposite side.”

Finally, Wiese said there is no excuse for slowing a first responder trying to save lives.

“If you are in an emergency, yourself, and you need help from a first responder, think how critically important that would be for you or one of your loved ones,” Wiese said. “Just show some courtesy, some respect to the people who have to do those jobs, to your fellow citizens to make sure that we can get the help to everybody in need.”