After a rash of deadly collisions involving emergency vehicles on the shoulder of the highway, the state of Florida has created an initiative aimed at protecting emergency and assistance personnel when vehicles are on the side of the road. Two recent cases demonstrate the need for and the importance of adherence to the ‘Move Over’ law.
In May, Florida State Trooper Chelsea Richard was completing an accident investigation and speaking with a tow truck driver, John Duggan and the father of an accident victim, George Phillips, when another accident caused a pick-up truck to veer off the roadway and onto the shoulder. The pick-up struck the patrol car, Richard, Duggan and Phillips before coming to a stop. Trooper Richard and John Duggan died at the scene. Phillips was transported to the hospital but died a few days later.
In another case, Road Ranger, Arnold Metellus, was assisting a disabled vehicle when a Jeep Grand Cherokee entered the emergency lane, struck and killed Metellus, and kept going. The vehicle was found just over one week later at a residence in Broward County and has since been impounded. A warrant has been issued for the suspected driver; however police continue to investigate this tragedy.
Two incidents resulting in four deaths and several families irreparably changed and grieving the loss of loved ones. The intent of the Move Over law is to prevent these accidents from occurring.
The state of Florida is not alone in efforts to stop these horrifying roadside accidents. In fact, 49 states, including California, have these laws on the books. Move Over, America is the national campaign to make drivers aware of the move over initiatives in their states.
According to a nationwide Mason Dixon Poll sponsored by the National Safety Commission:
- 71% of Americans have not heard of ‘Move Over’ laws
- 86% support enacting ‘Move Over’ laws in all 50 states
- 90% believe traffic stops are dangerous for first responders and law enforcement personnel
Sobering Numbers from Police Chief Magazine
- More police officers are killed by traffic crashes than by any other line-of-duty cause of death
- More than one-fourth of those killed are struck by passing vehicles while they work outside their patrol cars
- In 2013, 11 officers were struck and killed by vehicles
- In less than a year, 29 Colorado state troopers were struck by passing vehicles
- One-fourth of all of Colorado State Patrol’s fallen heroes were taken by a driver that did not move over
- From 2004 to 2012, the Tennessee Highway Patrol recorded 9,317 citations for Move Over violations
Across the United States, crashes that could have been prevented by drivers moving over kill on average:
- 1 tow truck driver every 6 days
- 23 highway workers
- 1 law enforcement officer every month
- 5 firefighters every year
Understanding Florida’s Move Over Law
- When emergency or assistance vehicles and garbage and utility vehicles are on the shoulder:
- Drivers on a two-lane road are to slow to 20 mph below the posted speed limit when approaching
- If the speed limit is 20 mph or less, the driver is to slow to 5 mph
- On a multi-lane highway, drivers are to vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle
- If unable to do so, the driver must slow speed to 20 mph below the posted speed limit
- Failure to obey the law may result in three points and a fine in excess of $150
These laws are important to preserving the lives of those individuals that serve and protect us on the roadways. Trooper Joey Lindsay was injured when a tractor-trailer hit him while he was stationary on the roadside resulting in the multiple injuries, including a broken neck. Trooper Lindsay, who has recovered from his injuries and is back on the job says, “When I first came out of the academy, I was really passionate about the move over law, now it is even more important to me because I have experienced the dangers myself. “
Steinger, Greene, & Feiner support our law enforcement, first responders, and emergency personnel and recognize how dangerous it is for them on the roadways and how important it is for drivers to stay alert, pay attention to the roadways, and know and obey the laws. ‘Move Over’ laws also protect the motoring public in that it could be you or a loved one who is pulled over or in a disabled vehicle when another driver who is not paying attention collides with your vehicle. The damage could be immeasurable – up to and including loss of life.
As Trooper Lindsay reminds us, “You have to move over and give room to emergency vehicles on the side of the road. It’s not just for our safety. It’s for drivers, too. You would have to live with striking somebody and killing them because you’re in a hurry to get from point A to point B and you don’t care about people’s safety.”
In any way you can, our firm family encourages you to do as much as you can to prevent accidents. When you cannot, know that you can count on Steinger, Greene, & Feiner to passionately advocate for you and your loved ones. Find a car accident lawyer or car accident law firm to help you.