The law enforcement officers who risk life and limb keeping our highways safe deserve a simple act of courtesy when they stop by the side of the road to assist motorists or ticket dangerous drivers.
But too often, motorists ignore the need to give them space and speed by at a distance that is far too close for comfort.
As the Tribune’s Jose Patino Girona reports, 170 law enforcement officers nationwide have died since 1999 while parked on the side of the road, working.
Just recently, two Hillsborough sheriff’s officers suffered broken bones when a motorcyclist crashed into them after they stopped on the shoulder of the road to assist those involved in an accident on Interstate 75.
Lawmakers in Tallahassee passed the “move over” law in 2002 to protect the officers. Under the law, motorists must move over a lane, or slow to 20 mph below the limit when passing an emergency vehicle stopped by the side of the road with lights flashing. Violating the law can result in a $153 fine and points on the driver’s license.
Unfortunately, too many people are ignorant of the law or unwilling to go to the trouble. In Hillsborough County over the past three years, nearly 300 people have been ticketed.
The law applies to all emergency personnel and vehicles, including tow trucks, and to every roadway, not just interstates.
“We need that space to get the job done safely,” Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Gaskins said. He points out that emergency workers and officers are focused on the job at hand, and often unable to keep a close eye out for oncoming traffic that might be straying into the emergency lane.
Moving over, or slowing down, is a simple courtesy that can help avoid a serious accident.