CHARLESTON, WV — Every day, law enforcement officers and other first responders put their lives on the line to keep Americans safe. One of the most dangerous parts of their job is stepping out on the roadside, whether for a crash investigation, a stranded motorist, or a traffic citation. One of the most sobering statistics about the dangerous nature of their jobs is that there have been 149 law enforcement officers alone killed in traffic-related incidents since 2017.
In order to bring more awareness to this issue, the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) is working with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to spread the word to all motorists: Move Over. It’s the Law. This campaign will be held May 6-8, 2022.
Every State has enacted “Move Over” laws to protect law enforcement officers and first responders. These laws require drivers to slow down and, if safe to do so, move over when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with emergency lights activated.
“Move Over” laws are not new. The first “Move Over” law in the U.S. was introduced in South Carolina in 1996. West Virginia’s “Move Over” law was originally implemented in 2003. Hawaii was the final State to enact such a law in 2012. These laws protect all first responders, including paramedics, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, safety service patrols, towing vehicles, and law enforcement.
Tragically, law enforcement officers are still killed every year by drivers who fail to move over.NHTSA has used similar high-visibility enforcement and messaging campaigns in other traffic safety campaigns, such as Click It or Ticket, to increase seat belt use. These methods have been proven to be successful in making the public aware of existing laws and the reasons they’re important.
GHSP Director Bob Tipton stressed the importance of this national awareness campaign.
“Unfortunately, we have seen the consequences of what can happen to first responders when they are working on our roadsides, in the crash earlier this week, during which a Taylor County Sheriff’s Deputy was struck and injured,” Tipton said.
“Many drivers may think that moving over when they are approaching first responder vehicles working by the side of the road, is a courtesy. They may even have the misconception that moving over is optional. We want all drivers on West Virginia’s roads to know that moving over when emergency vehicles are pulled over on the side of the road is required by law. It is not optional. Move Over. It’s the Law,” Tipton continued.
According to WV State Code 17C-14-9a, “Any person who violates any subsection of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $500 or confined in the county or regional jail not more than sixty days, or both fined and imprisoned.”
Emergency personnel can only do so much to keep themselves safe when they pull over on the side of the road. The rest of the responsibility falls on other motorists. Remember, next time you see those flashing lights on the side of the road, slow down and, if safe to do so, Move Over. It’s the Law.