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Tennessee Legislator Expands Right-of-Way Law for Passing Stationary Vehicles on Side of Road

Posted on May 28 2017 4:02PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

As many in Tennessee are aware, a few years ago the Tennessee Legislator passed T.C.A. § 55-8-132 which provides that when an individual passes a stationary emergency vehicle on the side of the road, there are certain requirements to try to pull over or slow down, depending on the road conditions. Previously, this applied only to emergency vehicles that were using flashing light.  The prior statutory language was as follows:

 

(a) Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle making use of audible and visual signals meeting the requirements of the applicable laws of this state, or of a police vehicle properly and lawfully making use of an audible signal only:

(1) The driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection, and shall stop and remain in that position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer; and

(2) Upon the approach of an authorized emergency vehicle, as stated above , the operator of every streetcar shall immediately stop the streetcar clear of any intersection and keep it in that position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer.

(b) Upon approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, when the vehicle is giving a signal by use of flashing lights, a person who drives an approaching vehicle shall:

(1) Proceeding with due caution, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the authorized emergency vehicle, if possible with due regard to safety and traffic conditions, if on a highway having at least four (4) lanes with not less than two (2) lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle; or

(2) Proceeding with due caution, reduce the speed of the vehicle, maintaining a safe speed for road conditions, if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe.

 

However, the 2017 Tennessee Legislator expanded this law to now apply to any “stationary motor vehicle”.  This was done in Public Chapter No. 95, signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam on April 4, 2017 and effective on July 1, 2017.

 

In order to require the approaching driver to act, the “stationary motor vehicle” must be located on the shoulder, emergency lane or median and the vehicle must be using a “signal by use of flashing lights”. When these conditions are present, the approaching driver must take steps to approach safely.  This new statutory addition provides the following section:

 

Upon approaching a stationary motor vehicle that is located on the shoulder, emergency lane, or median and the vehicle is giving a signal by use of flashing lights, a person who drives an approaching vehicle shall:

 (1) Proceeding with due caution, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the motor vehicle, if possible with due regard to safety and traffic conditions, if on a highway having at least four (4) lanes with not less than two (2) lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle; or

 (2) Proceeding with due caution, reduce the speed of the vehicle, maintaining a safe speed for road conditions, if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe.

 

As a result, basically the approaching vehicle must make a lane change so they are not in the lane directly next to the stationary motor vehicle. Or in the alternative, if a lane change is unsafe or impossible, then the vehicle must reduce their speed and maintain a safe speed to pass the vehicle.

 

The Tennessee Legislator also added an additional section subpart T.C.A. § 55-8-132(f) which now provides as follows:

 

(f) This section shall not operate to relieve the driver of a stationary motor vehicle, authorized emergency vehicle, recovery vehicle, solid waste vehicle, or highway maintenance vehicle from the duty to operate the vehicle with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway.

 

As a result, the vehicle that is pulled over still must exercise due care for the safety of all people on the highway. The fact they are pulled over and using flashing signals does not completely nullify the possibility that they have acted incorrectly or negligently.

 

Most Tennesseans are familiar with the requirements to pull over when there is a police or emergency vehicle on the shoulder of a road. This law now applies to all stationary vehicles that are using flashing lights, including non-emergency vehicles. Obviously, this could be a source for traffic law violations and potential liability when an accident occurs.  The moral of this story is to change lanes to leave space for any stopped vehicle.  That is the safest way to proceed in Tennessee with this new statutory addition.

 

Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Defense Litigation blog.

TAGS: Automobile/Motorcycle Liability, 2017 Tennessee Legislation
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Tennessee Defense Litigation Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
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Nashville, TN 37203
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E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com

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