Timothy P. Reilly, P.E., Civil Engineer
Most motorists will have seen these signs on Pennsylvania roads and are familiar with their duty to move into an adjacent lane to give more room to emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road. This helps to protect emergency service responders in a vulnerable position along an active highway and reduces the risk for subsequent collisions with emergency vehicles or the vehicles to which they are responding. As noted in the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, Emergency Service Responders include police officers; firefighters; EMS and ambulance personnel; towing and recovery workers; and highway maintenance and construction personnel.
But what about when you’re stuck in heavy traffic on I- 95 and there just isn’t a safe gap in the adjacent lane to move over? According to §3327 of the PA Vehicle Code, a motorist’s duty is to pass the emergency response area “at a speed of no more than 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit” when it is not possible to move into an adjacent lane.
This clarification is part of an Act 105 of 2020 which was signed on October 29, 2020 and effective 180 days later on April 27, 2021. The Act also sets new fines and a point system for failures to adhere to this duty. So, the next time you are approaching an emergency response area, slow down and move into an adjacent lane if possible. If that is not possible, slow down to at least 20 miles per hour under the speed limit.
Timothy P. Reilly, P.E., Civil Engineer with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.