The Cop Column
July, 2002
Cpl. Rick Hord
Public Information Officer

Some New Florida Laws

The new "Move Over Act" from the 2002 Florida Legislature gives us an opportunity to revisit a topic near and dear to the hearts of those who drive law enforcement vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances: proper behavior in the presence of an emergency vehicle.

The new law adds some language to the existing law, which any emergency vehicle operator will tell you is commonly ignored. When an emergency vehicle approaches, all other traffic has long been required to move to the nearest edge of the road, clear of any intersection, and stop until the emergency vehicle has passed.

Now, the "Move Over Act" tells drivers what to do in a situation not previously mentioned: what to do when you approach a patrol car, fire truck, or ambulance stopped in or near the roadway with its lights flashing. On a multi-lane road, move to the lane farthest from the stopped emergency vehicle. On a two-lane road, when there is no extra lane to vacate, the new law says all traffic passing the emergency vehicle must slow to a speed of 20 miles per hour less than the posted limit, or to 5 MPH if the posted limit is 20 or less.

A reminder is appropriate here: get in the habit of checking your mirrors, and looking ahead, behind, and to the sides of your vehicle every few seconds while driving. Tunnel-vision is a common and potentially deadly habit... as is the practice of only looking ahead a short distance. Emergency vehicle operators have learned their lights and sirens are often either not seen and heard, or ignored.

Another act of the Legislature tightens up some aspects of the drunk driving laws. Ignition interlocks will now be mandatory, starting with the second DUI conviction. DUI becomes a felony starting with the third conviction within ten years... and refusing the blood, breath, or urine test can now be a criminal offense, instead of just an administrative suspension. It's worth pointing out identical DUI laws apply on the water.

ATV's and "off-highway vehicles" received some attention from our lawmakers. The definition for "all terrain vehicle" now extends up to 900 pounds (it was 600), and, although they must be titled as of July 1, they may not be used on public roads.

Plenty of us remember when all Florida license tags looked the same. Now, we are accustomed to dozens of specialty plates. Here are seven brand-new ones you may be seeing soon: The "Florida Golf" license plate, "Florida Firefighters"license plate, "The Police Benevolent Association" tag, "The Breast Cancer research" tag, "The American Red Cross" license tag, and the "Protect Florida Whales" license plate are all already in existence, as is one that may prove to be very popular called "The United We Stand" license plate. The "United We Stand" tags will generate money for airport security enhancements and for the Rewards for Justice Fund.