New state law requires driver caution around designated vehicles

As of Aug. 16 Arkansas motorists must treat stationary Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department vehicles with flashing lights in the same manner as emergency vehicles stopped alongside the roadway.

Act 579 — which was signed into law by Gov. Mike Beebe — requires motorists to move over or slow down for vehicles with the AHTD and their contractors as well as utility vehicles, tow trucks or any other authorized vehicles displaying blue, red, amber, white or green lights that are flashing, revolving or rotating. These are in addition to law enforcement, fire and emergency services vehicles that were already legally protected.

“If motorists see [any of these] vehicles they must move to the farthest possible lane or position from the authorized vehicle,” said a press release from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. “If a driver can’t move over he or she must reduce speed and exercise caution.”

“The AHTD started pushing to modify the existing law due to concern over the safety of our workers,” AHTD Director Scott Bennett said. “We started hearing from other groups like electric utilities and tow truck operators who wanted protection as well. There was obviously a need and we were happy to include them.”

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management has vehicles equipped with green lights that are a part of this legislation. A press release from ADEM said that local emergency managers and selected other emergency vehicles have green lights as well.

“The safety of our staff on the highways in responding to emergencies is certainly a top priority at ADEM so we are certainly pleased to with this legislation,” ADEM Director David Maxwell said.

The legislation was sponsored by State Rep. Jonathan Barnett (R-87) of Siloam Springs in the 89th General Assembly as House Bill 1750.

A driver found guilty of violating this law can be fined up to $500, jailed or both. The court also may order community service or suspend a person’s driver’s license up to six months.