State law requires drivers to move over one lane for vehicles along the side of the road.

Starting next week, drivers along Oregon roads will need to be a little more vigilant when passing cars along the side of the road.

A new law taking effect Jan. 1 requires drivers to move over or slow down for any cars on the side of the road with hazard lights flashing, or showing signs of distress.

Under the new law, drivers are required to move over at least one lane, or, if that's not possible, to slow down by at least five miles below the posted speed limit.

The law is an expansion of an existing "move over" law, which requires drivers to give extra space for emergency vehicles displaying warning lights on the side of the road.

The bill was introduced by the Oregon Department of Transportation to protect motorists stopped along Oregon's highways, According to Paul Mather, an administrator in Oregon Department of Transportation's Highway Division, the current law doesn't protect people experiencing car trouble, nor does it protect ODOT workers who regularly find themselves in harm's way.

"Oregon highway maintenance employees are at risk daily in the course of their regular duties. The nature of their duties requires that they work alongside high-speed traffic," Mather told a House committee in April. "We take precautions by ensuring that our workzones are set up to protect employees, but even with those precautions, employees are at risk.

"In addition, much of our work that impacts travel lanes is done during nighttime hours to minimize the disruption to traffic, which increases the risk … Requiring vehicles to slow down or move over provides the stopped vehicle with an extra measure of safety, whether it be a motorist changing a tire, a disabled commercial truck, an emergency vehicle responding to a crash, workers in a highway construction work zone, or an ODOT maintenance employee engaged in highway maintenance."

According to ODOT, Between 2011 and 2015, there were 167 serious crashes and eight people were killed in incidents where a vehicle was parked on the side of the road and there was no emergency vehicle with lights on involved.

During that same time frame, in incidents where an emergency vehicle with lights on was aiding a motorist, there were just six serious crashes and no fatalities.

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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