Article 26 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law covers right of way violations. Two statutes pertain to emergency vehicles and one has recently been modified to apply to hazard vehicles. The obvious goal of the legislature in creating these statutes is to protect the safety of individuals who are in the process of responding to an emergency or who are in a vulnerable position on the side of a road while doing their jobs.
Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1144 in essence requires a driver to yield the right of way and to immediately drive to the right hand edge or curb of the roadway (or to either edge of a one way roadway with three or more lanes) and then to stop and remain stopped until the emergency vehicle has passed unless otherwise directed by a police officer. This section requires the emergency vehicle to be immediately approaching with at least one emergency red light visible from a distance of 500 feet and with the sounding of an audible signal such as a siren.
Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1144(a) was amended in January of 2012 and requires motorists to use due care to avoid colliding with emergency vehicles while on public highways and displaying at least one red emergency light. “Due care” is broadly defined to specifically include, without limitation, moving from the lane which contains the emergency vehicle or from the lane immediately adjacent to the shoulder where the emergency vehicle is located.
This law now also applies in a similar manner to hazard vehicles, such as DOT vehicles and tow trucks, displaying one or more amber lights.
A conviction of either of these two sections carries with it three (3) points and the potential of a fine of up to $150.00 plus mandatory New York State surcharges.
While it obviously would be a best practice to move over when possible for any vehicle stopped on the side of a roadway, on certain occasions that simply may not be possible to do in a safe manner. To the extent it is not feasible to move over, it is suggested that “due care” would certainly then include slowing down and being particularly attentive to the vehicle or vehicles on the side of the roadway and obviously any people who may be outside of those vehicles.
Each of these two sections of the law has specific requirements and, as a result, allows the potential for a defense if necessary. A general plea bargain process may certainly apply for motorists charged under these sections as well, so it would be recommended that any individual charged with these offenses, or any other type of offense for that matter, consult with an attorney to determine their best option for moving forward.