Moving over for stopped emergency vehicles can create rather than avoid traffic safety problems. A recent photo of the scene of a traffic collision on Highway 401 exemplifies one of the problems. The photo below shows that some vehicles have stopped on the right side of the highway. Drivers understanding that they must “move over” begin to squeeze into the left lanes. However collision-involved vehicles are also stopped in left lane. Must drivers then veer back to the right?

Is it better for drivers travelling through this accident site to move to the right, left or simply stay in the lane they are in? Is this Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?

The reality of traffic conflicts demonstrates how blindly moving over to the right because a law says so can create safety problems, not remove them. Moving over to the left in the above example could cause through traffic to collide with the stopped vehicles in the left lane or pedestrians who have exited the vehicles on the left. From this overhead view it would seem that the safest action would be to travel in the middle lanes. But drivers do not have such an overhead view when they are driving. Frequently, especially when there are large and tall trucks present, drivers cannot see well enough ahead to know which lane is best to drive in.

This is the paradox where “experts” have created a law expecting that it will fit every occasion yet it may only improve safety in some occasions while worsening safety in others. There are situations where drivers, fearing being charged under the Move Over Law, will make a lane change into a lane where it is not safe to do so. While some might blame such drivers, in many instances they cannot see stopped emergency vehicles until there is only a limited time to react because of situations caused by the blockage of a view by large tall trucks. It is also not always a safe approach to apply heavy braking because that in itself can cause traffic problems for drivers not expecting such an action.

The general problem is that the Move Over law can create traffic safety problems and further study is needed to see how those problems can be corrected.