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To protect public safety workers and tow truck drivers and reduce tragedies, traffic safety advocates say ‘move over’ laws are needed in all 50 states.
On average, every other week a first responder is killed while working on a roadside across the U.S., highlighting just how dangerous it is for individuals who regularly work along the shoulders of America’s busy and congested roads, according to the American Automobile Association. To protect first responders, AAA and traffic safety groups are advocating to get 'move over’ laws passed in all 50 states according to a press release.
Newly released AAA research shows that some drivers may not fully grasp the dangers roadside workers face daily, which it says is alarming given the recent deaths of AAA drivers. As of August, 14 tow truck providers lost their lives while helping drivers at the roadside this year.
While the move over laws have been helpful for ensuring safety, new data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that:
- 42% thought this behavior was somewhat or not dangerous at all to roadside emergency workers, including public employees.
- Nearly 23% are unaware of the ‘move over’ law in the state where they live.
- Among those who are aware of their state's law, about 15% report not understanding the potential consequences for violating the move over rules.
One AAA poll of D.C. drivers shows that those surveyed lack understanding or awareness about the district’s move over law, which was passed in 2019. Nearly 60% of those polled indicated they were unsure or thought there was no move over law in D.C., according to the press release.
“We will be launching a public awareness campaign and will be working with transportation officials and traffic safety stakeholders to bring awareness to both the importance of driver behavior change and the existing law,” said Ragina Ali, Public & Government Affairs manager at AAA. “This effort targets not only motorists traveling or residing in the district, but on Maryland and Virginia roads, as well as across the country since every state has a move over law.”
Ohio is one of the states that has considered a move over law. Ohio Fraternal Order of Police President Jay McDonald told Cleveland.com that his state needs tougher penalties for drivers who fail to move over for stopped emergency vehicles.
In 2017, Ohio Reps. Tom Patton, a Strongsville Republican, and Brigid Kelly, a Cincinnati Democrat, introduced a bill for stricter penalties. They said the move over law was essential to ensuring police officers and emergency personnel stay safe, according to Cleveland.com. While the bill was introduced, it was not signed into law.
“This is something we hope will educate, inspire people to drive professionally and drive carefully,” Patton said. “Understand what you’re dealing with here—you’re dealing with life.”
AAA offers precautionary tips drivers can take in order to protect roadside public safety workers, tow truck drivers, drivers with disabled vehicles and others, all aiming toward improving highway safety. The tips are:
- Remain alert, avoid distractions and focus on the task of driving.
- Keep an eye out for situations where emergency vehicles, tow trucks, utility service vehicles or disabled vehicles are stopped on the side of the road.
- When you see these situations, slow down and if possible, move one lane over and away from the people and vehicles stopped at the side of the road.
Andre Claudio is assistant editor at Route Fifty.