Move over law: Are drivers breaking it or is the law broken?



Georgia's “move over” law is designed to make officers safer when they're stopped on the side of the road, but critics say it's really making millions of dollars for local governments.

"I just feel that it's not being used for the reason it was intended," said Kay, a driver who did not want us to use her last name.

Kay said she slowed down so much, an officer was able to step into traffic on Ronald Reagan Parkway and hold up his hand to pull her over. She still got a ticket.

"If I stopped when he's standing in the middle of my lane, I was driving very slowly. I feel like I totally adhered to the law," Kay said.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer started digging into the issue after viewers called and emailed to complain about the tickets.

The law requires drivers to move over, or if that's not possible, to slow down to a reasonable speed when passing an emergency vehicle parked on the side of the road.

"If I would've moved over, I would've hit an 18-wheeler," said Thyron Spears.

Spears was driving on an entrance ramp to Highway 316 when an officer stopped him. He says he had slowed down but the officer didn't think he'd slowed down enough, and ticketed him anyway.

In the 10 years since Georgia's move-over law started, more than 27,000 drivers have been convicted.

One out of every five was in Gwinnett County.

Court records show in 2013, only four Gwinnett drivers fought those tickets and won. Terry Gatewood was one of them.

"I was pretty excited," said Gatewood.

He convinced a judge that he did move over, but had already moved back to the right lane after passing the officer. The officer who issued the ticket didn't notice because his back was to traffic.

Gatewood said, "I think it’s unfair to the motorist themselves, I mean it’s his word against my word.”

Gatewood said he did not break the law, but the way Georgia's law is written, it's already broken.

Florida's law, for example, tells drivers to slow to at least 20 mph below the posted speed limit. Georgia's law leaves it up to the officer.

"That is open to the officer's interpretation and sometimes should be decided by a judge," admitted Corporal Jake Smith, Gwinnett Police spokesman. 

Gwinnett police routinely set up operations to educate drivers. One officer parks with his lights on and another waits to catch those who don't move over.

"If they're educating the public, they need to write a warning instead of writing a ticket," said State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R Chickamauga.

Mullis was one of the law's original sponsors and vowed to take another look at the law's wording so it's less vague.

One ticket with court costs can cost drivers more than $500.

Mullis said, "I think that is clearly being used for revenue enhancement for the area and laws aren't intended to do that."

Fleischer put that question to Cpl. Jake Smith of the Gwinnett Police Department.

Fleischer asked, "The county is certainly making more money off of this law?"

"That could be argued. But I would make the argument that a real citation carries a lot more weight than a warning,” Smith said.

Kay says she did not deserve a warning or a ticket.

"It's being used possibly as a trap more than the safety issues," said Kay. "I feel like I totally adhered to the law."

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