New Jersey resident shares distressing experience vs little-known traffic lawBy Cristina D.C. Pastor
It was the start of a snowstorm on January 31 and New Jersey resident Vivian Talambiras Cruz was driving cautiously along Route 10 in East Hanover to her home in West Orange which is two towns away.
From her location, she spotted a police car with blinking lights parked on the right side of the road. Carefully she slowed down as she passed the police vehicle. Within minutes she saw the same police car trailing her. She drove further along thinking it was following another car. To her surprise, the same police car appeared to be on her trail. Vivian, getting a bad vibe, pulled over.
“Is there a problem, officer?” she asked, wondering what traffic violation she may have committed.
It’s called the Move Over Law and, according to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety website, it requires drivers to “reduce their speed and change lanes when approaching authorized vehicles displaying emergency lights. Such vehicles include police, fire and medical services vehicles, and also highway maintenance, tow trucks and official motorist aid vehicles displaying amber emergency lights. Where possible, drivers are required to move over to create an empty lane next to the emergency vehicle. When safely changing lanes is not possible, drivers must slow down below the posted speed limit prior to passing emergency vehicles. Drivers should also be prepared to stop, if necessary.”
Until that incident, Vivian had not heard of the MOL, which was passed in 2009 to protect roadside emergency workers. Neither have some of her friends, co-workers and neighbors. She did not change lanes when passing, but out of consideration for the police officer whom she did not want to spatter with accumulating snow on the side of the road, Vivian slowed down.
Within the next couple of days, she was frantically talking to lawyers and went online to research and get educated on this traffic rule. What she found “disturbing and confusing” was that the police officer who gave her a ticket admonished her not to go to court. Baffled, she went to the police station to clarify. She was told everything was up to the court and, to her astonishment, she already had an appointment to appear before a judge
A week later, she stood before a courtroom without a lawyer. Everyone had legal representation. When the prosecutor saw her clean record, he decided against penalizing her by not assigning points to her license. Most moving violations are equivalent to 2 to 4 points. Twelve or more points can result in a suspended license revocable only when one pays a fine or returns to driving class again.
The prosecutor asked her to pay $250 plus court fees. The penalty – ranging from $100 to $500 — was affirmed by the presiding judge. In the end, Vivian paid a total of $339. Some of her friends urged her to contest the judgment. She just wanted to get it over and put this incident behind her. Had she gotten a lawyer, she believed she would have paid more!
“Just glad I didn’t get any points to my license,” said Vivian, who is sharing her story so others will know about the Move Over Law and not take it for granted.