Under the state’s “move over” laws and Title 29-A §2054-9 MRSA, Maine drivers must pull over or slow down when they encounter a stopped emergency vehicle. Emergency vehicles generally refer to police vehicles, fire trucks, tow trucks, highway safety vehicles, and ambulances. Drivers approaching emergency vehicles must pull as far to the right side of the roadway that is safe and practical. While many accidents involve drivers hitting emergency vehicles, in some cases, haphazard emergency vehicles cause serious accidents. The National Safety Council reports that their most recent statistics indicate that nearly 170 people suffered fatal injuries in an accident involving emergency vehicles. Over 50% of these fatalities involved victims who were inside passenger vehicles.
For instance, a Maine news report recently described a harrowing ambulance crash on Route 163. The ambulance crossed into the centerline and slammed into two vehicles before veering off the road, according to reports. The ambulance first hit a sedan and then struck a small SUV, sending both cars off of the road. Fortunately, the drivers did not sustain serious injuries as they were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident. The cause of the accident is under investigation; however, speed does not seem to be a factor in collisions.
Determining fault and liability in Maine emergency vehicle accidents can be a daunting process. The challenges largely stem from the state’s immunity laws which limit the types of claims citizens can file against the government. While many ambulances are run through private companies, the government often funds, owns or operates the vehicles. In these cases, injury victims may be left with little to no recourse for the driver’s negligence.