You are driving down the road. A flash of red and blue light catches your eye up ahead. A police car is stopped behind another vehicle. What do you do?

For most people, it’s going to be obvious. Get into the left lane, if it’s available. If it’s not, pass the pulled-over officer with as much care and safety as possible — reducing speed and cutting a wide berth.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s new Move Over law went into effect. It made it more than just a good idea to get in the far lane to avoid an emergency vehicle, towing or maintenance equipment or even a trash hauler or recycling truck. It detailed specific — and steep — penalties for not doing so.

Don’t move over or slow down, and you will face a $500 fine for your first offense. The second time doubles to $1,000. Do it a third, and it doubles again — and that $2,000 also comes with a 90-day license suspension.

The fines and penalties are the new part here. The state police have been citing people for years for not moving over. When state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams, and Sen. Kim Ward, R- Westmoreland, sent out the news release on the bill they co-sponsored in 2020, it included an accounting of violations in 2018-19: 7,075 tickets and 3,204 warnings.

Is the new law necessary if an old one was already on the books? Is it necessary at all if it is common sense?

It is. Most laws that get passed are just updates to things that already were illegal. Strangulation already was assault or murder when Pennsylvaniaspelled it out in the criminal code in 2017. Blackmail was illegal when Pennsylvania passed new statutes including sexual extortion in 2019.

The reason laws are updated is to recognize what needs more work. Too many people weren’t acknowledging the common sense of moving over to make it safer to tow a disabled pickup or for a police officer to write a ticket.

The good thing about the law is that so many people won’t even have to think about it. They already are moving over or slowing down when they see those lights or a disabled vehicle.

They are using common sense and reacting accordingly.

Unfortunately, every day we are reminded that common sense isn’t as common as it should be. That’s why laws like Move Over are necessary.

— The Tribune-Review, Greensburg/TNS

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