A bill that would strengthen protection for emergency workers including police officers from being hit by people ignoring the "Move Over Law" was signed into law on Monday by Governor Phil Murphy.

The "Slow Down or Move Over, It's the Law Act" sponsored by Monmouth County Assembly Representatives Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey made the announcement of the bill passing on Monday which instructs driver to reduce their speed and change lanes when approaching an authorized emergency vehicle, tow or highway maintenance truck with flashing or blinking lights.

Anyone who fails to abide by the law is subject to a hefty fine and losing points off your license for starters.

The “Move Over Law” was created in response to the tragic death of Trooper Marc Castellano, who was struck and killed by a driver who failed to move over for Castellano's service vehicle.

Under the law, drivers have to reduce their speed and change lanes when approaching an authorized emergency vehicle, tow or highway maintenance truck, and emergency or sanitation service vehicle that has its flashing, blinking or alternating emergency lights on.

“Violators of the ‘Move Over Law’ are putting police officers and other emergency personnel at serious risk of injury or death,” Houghtaling (D-Monmouth) said. “We’ve been humbled to fight for this bill alongside Trooper Castellano’s mother, Donna Setaro. Donna fought hard to pass the original ‘Move Over Law’ in the wake of her son’s death, and we hope that this legislation will help make sure that no other parent has to endure the same loss. I’m grateful to all of the law enforcement officers and families who have supported our efforts to pass this legislation, and we’re so proud to finally see it become law.”

Under the existing law, a driver who fails to slow down or move over for an emergency vehicle or maintenance truck that has its emergency lights on would be subject to a fine between $100 and $500.

However, under the new law (A-3890), if a driver is convicted of this offense three or more times in a single year, they will lose two motor vehicle points on their driver’s license.

Accumulating points may result in additional penalties, including surcharges and license suspension.

“As the daughter of a retired State Trooper, I know the dangers that our state’s law enforcement officers face every day,” Downey (D-Monmouth) said. "Even something as simple as a traffic stop or standard emergency response can turn deadly if a driver is ignoring the laws or failing to pay attention. That’s why our bill gives the ‘Move Over Law’ new teeth, with a goal of preventing future tragedies and making clear that this is not an issue that New Jersey takes lightly.”

Since Trooper Castellano’s passing, four Manchester Township Police Officers, Sgt. Richard Mazza, Ptl. Christian Nazario, Ptl. Gavin Reilly and Ptl. Peter Manco, were struck on Route 37, which came nine months after another incident in the same Ocean County town where another Manchester Police Officer, Patrolman Kyle Rickvalsky, was injured when a driver failed to obey the Move Over Law.

(August 2018 in Manchester)

"We would like to remind drivers that it is the law (NJ Title 39:4-92.2) to slow down, and if safe, move over – away from police, fire crews, paramedics and tow truck drivers when they see flashing lights on the side of the road. Drivers are encouraged to visit www.moveoverlaw.com for more information," Manchester Township Police said in a statement following the incident.

There was also a Brick Township Police Officer who had his patrol car hit while an officer was inside the vehicle.

“Too many drivers either don’t know about the Move Over Law or simply don’t adhere to it,” Senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth), a sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said. “By increasing the penalty for violating this important traffic law, we hope to encourage drivers to slow down or move over when passing emergency or maintenance vehicles. When drivers do so, they may be saving a life.”

The law also calls for the Division of Highway Traffic Safety in the Department of Law and Public Safety to conduct a public awareness campaign to inform drivers of the increased penalty.

The law will take effect on September 1, 2020.

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