By WECT Staff | July 27, 2020 at 8:34 AM EDT – Updated July 28 at 7:50 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – State Troopers are cracking down on drivers not observing the state’s Move Over law. In the past two months there have been several incidents where State Highway Patrol (SHP) vehicles were struck by motorists.
“Since June, six separate collisions have occurred where a Highway Patrol vehicle was struck by another motorist, sending troopers to the hospital with a range of injuries. While these crashes could have been avoided, failing to move over was the contributing factor in five of the six incidents. Within the past five years, 15 trooper’s vehicles have been struck due to move over violations.
In an effort to prevent these types of accidents state troopers will be focusing on ‘move over’ violations on major roadways across the state this week.
“Nearly 18 years ago, our state’s lawmakers enacted the Move Over law in an effort to afford public servants protection while performing their assigned duties,” Colonel Glenn McNeill, Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol said. “Motorists must share in the responsibility of ensuring safe travel for others and those who place their lives in harm’s way each day while serving in various public safety professions.”
More than 150 law enforcement officers have been struck and killed by motorists while preforming their duties nationwide, and in North Carolina, seven troopers have been killed by being struck by passing vehicles. In an effort to combat these incidents, lawmakers passed the Move Over law in 2002.
“In 2002, the Move Over law directed motorists to change lanes or slow down when passing a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights on the roadside. In 2012, the law was revised to include “public service” vehicles. Public service vehicles are described as any vehicle that is being used to assist motorists or law enforcement officers with wrecked or disabled vehicles, or is a vehicle being used to install, maintain or restore utility service, including electric, cable, telephone, communications and gas and displays an amber light,” according to the press release.
The law requires drivers who are on a four-lane highway to move into another lane other than the one closest to the emergency vehicle until clear of that vehicle. On two-lane roads, drivers are required to reduce their speed if they come up to a stopped emergency vehicle.
Highway patrol officials say the law can mean the difference between life and death.
“One of the hardest things in the law enforcement workplace for us to do is to go to someones home and tell them their loved one is not coming home as a result of a crash… me personally I’ve had to do that too many times where all they had to do was move into an adjacent lane. We’ve had tow truck drivers hit, fire personnel hit, and law enforcement officials. It only takes a second to move into that opposite lane and ensure that person can go home to their family as well,” said Sgt. Michael Baker of the NC HP.
Public servants receive training on how to answer a variety of emergency calls, but no amount of experience or training can shield them from the danger of working on the side of the road.
“It makes us feel very helpless,” admitted Sgt. Baker. “Its very hard to train our members on what to do if you get hit by a 3,000 pound vehicle. I don’t know how you train for that.”
The penalty for violating the law is a $250 fine plus court costs. Motorists can face misdemeanor charges for causing personal injury or property damage greater than $500 and a Class F felony for severe injury or death in the immediate area of a stopped emergency vehicle or public service vehicle, the release concludes.
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