Moving over for roadside first responders saves lives

WASHINGTON — In 2016, 53 law enforcement officers were killed in traffic-related incidents, and another 15 were struck and killed while performing their duties outside of their vehicle and on the roadside.

With that in mind, the U.S. Department of Transportation is encouraging motorists “to move over to give law enforcement the room they need to work more safely.”

All 50 states have “Move Over” laws that say drivers must change lanes away from a first responder — police, firefighters and EMS personnel — or slow down significantly when they’re passing first responders who are performing their duties.

These laws exist because being struck by a vehicle when they’re helping a motorist who has broken down or while they’re performing traffic law enforcement functions is one of the biggest dangers first responders face.

“Whether responding to motor vehicle crashes, fighting fires or conducting traffic enforcement operations, the roadway and roadside should be thought of as part of the first responder’s workspace,” DOT said in a recent blog.

“If you’ve ever broken down on a highway, you know how unnerving it can be to have traffic rushing by at 55 or 65 mph. Just as first responders work tirelessly to keep us safe, we must be vigilant on the roads and move over when we see them at work.”

DOT lists the following examples of officers being injured or killed in traffic-related incidents:

  • In September 2012, North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Matt Mitchell was issuing a ticket when he was hit by a vehicle and thrown nearly 90 feet. He was severely injured but survived.
  • Last November, Colorado State Trooper Cody Donahue was struck and killed while investigating a crash on Interstate 25.
  • In January in Cleveland, Officer David Fahey was struck and killed on I-90 while assisting at a crash scene.

“Our first responders signed up to face danger, if necessary,” the DOT blog states. “They shouldn’t have to confront it in the form of a vehicle that isn’t giving them room to work safely. If you see the flashing lights on the roadside, you know what to do: Move over to protect the men and women who do so much to protect all of us.”

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