As people hit the road for summer vacations, Florida law enforcement agencies are mounting a campaign to call attention to the state’s Move Over Law. The law requires drivers approaching an emergency or law enforcement vehicle on the roadside to move out of the lane closest to the vehicle if they can do so safely.
Obeying the law can help protect the lives of first responders, the Florida Highway Patrol said in a news release about the designation of June as Move Over – Slow Down – Save a Life Month in Florida.
The roadside dangers for first responders became all too clear in May, when a Highway Patrol trooper, a tow truck driver and a third person were struck and fatally injured on Interstate 75 near Ocala.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the three were standing in the median following a crash involving two vehicles. Meanwhile, a second accident took place nearby, causing traffic to stop. The driver of an SUV braked suddenly to avoid hitting the stopped traffic and was sideswiped by a pickup truck, which veered onto the median and hit the three people, WPTV reported.
The trooper, Chelsea Richard, was a nine-year veteran of the patrol.
Under the law, drivers on interstates and multi-lane highways are required to move over when a patrol car or emergency vehicle is stopped with lights flashing. A driver who is unable to move over safely must slow down to a speed of 20 mph below the speed limit.
Col. David Brierton, director of the FHP, said troopers are work traffic stops and investigate accidents at the roadside with cars speeding past them a few feet away. Brierton said troopers face the real possibility each day of being struck and killed because someone fails to obey the Move Over Law.”
Hillsborough County Deputy Captain Steve Launikitis knows firsthand how important it is for drivers to follow the law. Last year, Launikitis and Master Deputy Chris Davis pulled over a driver in Sun City. While the deputies talked to the driver, a motorcyclist drove into the emergency lane and right into them.
Launikitis suffered broken bones in his leg, neck and ear. “My body shut down and both of us…were unconscious,” WTSP quoted Launikitis as saying.
To prevent similar accidents, police are trying to make themselves more visible, adding sensors in their lights to make them brighter. During daytime hours, the lights flash with redder coloring. At night, they flash with bluer coloring.
FHP Sgt. Steven Gaskins, who was hit by a car five years ago, told WTSP that he had this advice for all motorists: “Give us the room to do our job safely.”