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CT Fire Police: ‘Move Over Laws’ Designed To Protect First Responders And Roadside Workers



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When first responders across Connecticut answer the call for emergencies and other incidents on roadways and highways, they put their lives in danger to rush to assist someone in need.

Nationwide laws now require all motorists to slow down and move over whenever safely possible to protect first responders and roadside workers. At a minimum Move Over laws give first responders adequate room to do their jobs with a small buffer between themselves and passing traffic.

According to statistics, however, nearly 70 percent of drivers are either not aware of the law or simply not complying.

The Connecticut Fire Police (CFP) notes that every 4.6 days, a roadside worker or first responder in the United States is killed at the scene of a roadside incident. Hundreds more are injured each year while tending to a roadside emergency, such as car accidents, fires, or disabled vehicles, by drivers failing to slow down and move over.

Among the most recent fatalities occurred in North East, Penn., on August 19. Shawn Giles, 53, a firefighter with Fuller Hose Company, died after a driver sped into an accident investigation zone and fatally hit him.

The crash sent Giles, who was wearing a florescent green shirt and holding a bright orange handheld flag, into the air about 15-20 feet before hitting the pavement, according to investigators.

A piece of the handle Giles had been using to control traffic was found on the driver-side floorboard of the Lexus that hit him, Pennsylvania State Police said. The vehicle was heavily damaged.

The driver has been taken into custody and faces five charges including homicide by vehicle.

Move Over In Every State

For many years, AAA has been instrumental in passing Move Over laws in all states, advocating strongly for these laws to protect both first responders as well as tow truck drivers and other roadside workers. Additionally, AAA clubs nationwide have participated in educational and advocacy initiatives, creating public service announcements, and reaching out to state legislative officials to raise awareness of these vital Move Over laws.

The Move Over law in Connecticut requires any motorist driving in the lane closest to at least one stationary emergency vehicle in the travel lane or shoulder to immediately drop below the speed limit or change lanes, unless unsafe or not possible to do so.

Fines and penalties vary, based on the severity of the accident. Violating the Move Over law is an infraction in Connecticut. A fatal incident involving an emergency responder can result in a $10,000 fine, jail time, and a potential lawsuit filed by the victim’s family.

But there is more work to be done and CFP remains committed to raising awareness of the Move Over law and the dangers associated with working at the roadside.

Many states have also expanded their laws to cover other vehicles, such as utility and municipal vehicles (such as sanitation trucks), as well as any disabled vehicle on the side of the road.

Take Precautions

To better protect first responders and roadside workers and improve overall highway safety, CFP offers these precautionary tips to all motorists:

*Always remain alert. Avoid distractions and focus on the task of driving.

*Watch for situations where emergency vehicles, tow trucks, utility service vehicles, or disabled vehicles are stopped on the side of the road.

*When approaching an emergency vehicle with lights flashing on the side of a two-lane roadway, drivers should slow down to a speed that is safe and approach with caution unless otherwise directed by an emergency worker on the scene.

Some states recommend slowing to a speed that is 10-20 mph less than the posted speed limit.

*On multi-lane roadways, slow down when you see the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle at the roadside and, if possible, safely move over into an adjacent lane.

If you are unable to switch lanes, slow to a speed that is safe and reasonable. Some states recommend slowing to a speed that is 10-20 mph less than the posted speed limit.

Connecticut Fire Police are highly trained first responders who help protect first responders and emergency equipment to help save lives and/or property at car accidents, fires, and other emergencies by assisting with traffic management and other duties to protect their fellow first responders throughout the state of Connecticut. Within Newtown’s volunteer fire companies are members who have gone through the CFP certification program.

The roles of CFP officers are inherently dangerous, and they put their lives at risk each time they respond to a member of the public seeking assistance or provide roadside protection for first responders.

Connecticut Fire Police is reminding readers that Connecticut — and every state — has “Move Over” laws that require drivers to move over and slow down when they are approaching at least one stationary emergency vehicle in the travel lane or shoulder of any roadway. This is for the safety of those within an emergency scene, and is meant to prevent injuries or fatalities.
Connecticut Fire Police spent a day in Sandy Hook in March, training a group of men and women to become certified fire police officers. Training is essential for safe traffic management, especially in a time when nearly 70 people are unaware of or just ignore this state's Move Over, Slow Down law. —Bee file photo
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