But in his rear view mirror, he soon noticed that one of police cars was flashing its blue lights behind him, signaling him to pull over to the side of the road too.
Carter was stopped and ticketed because he had not moved over into another lane as passed the police cars — a violation of the state’s Move Over law.
The law, which took effect in 2003, requires drivers to either move into the next lane if an emergency vehicle with flashing lights is on the shoulder of the road, or if it’s impossible to move over, to slow down below the posted speed limit in preparation to stop.
Carter said he couldn’t move over safely, and he paid a hefty fine. If you are caught in the county and pay in the Floyd County Probate Judge’s office like Carter, it’s $255.
If you are caught in the city limits of Rome, your cost will be $700.
The law states that drivers may not be fined more than $500, but a city court spokeswoman said the fine is $500 and the additional $200 is court costs and surcharges.
Probate Judge Steve Burkhalter did not immediately return a phone call to a reporter seeking comment about the fines.
Officials with Rome’s municipal court referred a reporter to the legal department of the Georgia Division of Driver’s Services when asked about the fine and the surcharges. A Georgia DDS spokeswoman said she would pass the information on to an attorney, who did not call.
While the fines may be heavy, police and emergency officials praise the law.
“The Move Over law is probably one of the best pieces of legislation public safety personnel have seen in a long time,” said Andrew Denmon, an EMT with Redmond Emergency Medical Services. “It applies to every vehicle with authorized emergency lighting, from ambulances and patrol cars to wreckers and highway construction vehicles.”
Sgt. Gary Conway, who is head of the Special Enforcement Unit for the Floyd County Police Department, and has been a police officer for 24 years, said, “even before the law, drivers were cautious, but there were times if I moved a foot I would have been hit.”
Many of the drivers who violate the law are just not paying attention, Conway said.
“We need drivers to slow down, put their phones down and drive,” he said. “Pay attention to operating your vehicle, and we can all go home.”
Since the law took effect there have been no serious injuries to personnel in Rome and Floyd County, but Conway said one officer had a close call where his side mirror was hit.
“Luckily, he was in the car,” Conway said.
Carter, who was caught a second time for violating the law driving past Georgia Highlands College, said he wishes there was some discretion given by police.
“Everyone doesn’t drive erratically,” Carter said.