Highway Patrol to concentrate on drivers who crowd troopers

Stopping a vehicle on the side of the highway is just about the most hazardous part of a police officer’s job, and not just because of who might be in the stopped vehicle. An equally dangerous element is passing motorists zipping by at high speed just a few inches away. Since 1999, at least 170 police officers nationwide¬†have been killed and thousands have been injured after being clipped by passing vehicles. This month, the Florida Highway Patrol plans to get tough with motorists who ignore the state’s “Move Over” law.

A little refresher for those who may have forgotten what the Move Over law requires. Basically, motorists have to move over one lane when they approach a stopped patrol car, other emergency vehicle, or tow truck with warning lights flashing. If it is not possible to change lanes, drivers must drop their speed to 20 miles per hour below the posted limit and approach with caution. Failing to do so can net a motorist a ticket that carries a heavy fine and points on their license.

Police officers, firefighters, EMT’s and tow truck operators all take steps to protect themselves at roadside incidents. Many police approach the passenger’s side of the vehicle instead of the driver’s side. They park their patrol cars at an angle so if it’s struck, it will veer away and not hit the officer. Emergency vehicle drivers do the same. The problem is, passing motorists still manage to crash into them. Call it “blue light hypnosis” or “rubbernecking;” passers-by who are curious about what’s going on tend to drift towards the “attraction.” The problem is worse at night. Some have blamed emergency responders for excessively bright warning lights that can blind a driver. Responders say it’s the only way to get inattentive drivers’ attention.

Throughout January the FHP will be watching for drivers who fail to move over. In 2012, four troopers were struck on the side of the road. One remains in serious condition at a Broward County hospital. The others were either not hurt or have recovered from their injuries.

Source: Suwannee Democrat, “Move over, Florida, it’s the law,” Jan. 7, 2013