Alyssa Sutton

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, Oregon drivers could be fined up to $1,000 for not moving over or slowing down for vehicles displaying hazard lights, according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The state transportation department introduced Senate Bill 34 as a means to increase safety for motorists stopped along Oregon highways. The bill, which was repassed by the Senate in June, is an expansion of a pre-existing law.

Under the current law, drivers have to move over –– or, if unable to move over safely, to slow down –– only for an emergency vehicle, a roadside assistance vehicle, a tow vehicle or ambulance, when displaying warning lights.

The law will now require vehicles to move over a lane or to slow down to five miles per hour under the posted speed limit for any vehicle with their hazard lights on or showing signs of distress. This does not include vehicles that are parked in designated parking areas.

“Part of the reason why the law is so important is that it protects law enforcement and incident responders,” ODOT Public Information Officer Shelley Snow said.

According to data collected by ODOT, between 2011 and 2015 in Oregon, there were 167 serious crashes and eight fatalities that occurred while a vehicle was parked on the side of the road and there was no emergency vehicle with lights on involved.

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

The new law makes it clear that drivers have a choice to comply by either moving over or slowing down.

“If you can’t safely move over, like on roads where there are only two lanes, then slow down,” Snow said.

Not complying with this law is still considered a Class B traffic violation — which is comparable to a speeding violation.

“We hope (this law) improves safety,” Snow said.