Montana's newly expanded Mover Over law codifies commonsense requirements to move over and slow down for utility and highway maintenance vehicles, too.  

It’s long been the law that motorists must slow down and move over for emergency vehicles. Montana’s newly expanded “Move Over” law codifies commonsense requirements to move over and slow down for utility and highway maintenance vehicles, too. The law is intended to offer greater protection to utility and highway maintenance workers parked on the roadway or shoulder and displaying flashing or rotating red, white, blue, amber or green lights, or any temporary sign advising of an emergency scene or accident ahead.

Journeyman Lineman Nathan Vannoy often responds to situations involving power poles, power lines, and the public. While Vannoy is up in the bucket truck, potentially dealing with blinding snow, howling winds, or blazing heat while working with high voltage power lines, support staff on the ground is flagging traffic while displaying flashing amber lights and sometimes signs advising of an emergency ahead or utility staff at work.  Vannoy has been a lineman for about 15 years, and prior to that worked in law enforcement. He thinks that formally including utility workers in the existing Move Over law will be helpful. Over the years, he’s experienced many motorists seeing flashing amber lights but not moving over or slowing down.

The Mover Over law requires motorists to abide by any temporarily posted speed signs put up by workers. In the absence of signage, the following speed guidelines are in effect:

  • On an interstate, motorists must slow by 20 MPH if they can move over.
  • On a state highway or county road, motorists must slow by 30 MPH if they can move over.
  • On any other road, or if a motorist cannot safely move over, motorists must slow to half of the posted speed limit.

FEC crews at work

Vannoy reflected, “I particularly think that setting out the speeds people are expected to slow down to will be helpful. Just saying ‘slow down’ is too vague, kind of like how reasonable and prudent used to be with speed limits. What I think is reasonable and what you think is reasonable might be two different things.”

Marti Jo Clouse works in Meter Reader Services and often helps flag traffic when Flathead Electric Cooperative employees are working on the roadways. Clouse stated, “Flagging is a very dangerous job. It is not for everybody. You’re out in all kinds of weather and making sure the boys are safe doing their job, getting the power back on. I really hope the new Move Over law will help keep everyone safer.”

The Move Over bill advanced out of the Montana legislature with full bipartisan support and became law on July 1.

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