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Move over when officers, EMTs are near road

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POSTED: April 15, 2009 10:22 a.m.
ATLANTA — According to FBI reports, traffic enforcement units face some of the greatest risks on the road. In 2008, for the 12th year in a row, crashes and traffic-related incidents either equaled or exceeded officers under fire as the leading cause of police deaths in this country.
“Failure for drivers to simply move over a lane can have killer consequences for our hometown police officers working alongside our highways,” said Bob Dallas, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
Nationwide, incident reports show law enforcement and emergency vehicles of all types are often struck while working on the side of a highway, even while red, yellow, blue or white emergency lights are flashing.
“Let’s face it,” Dallas said, “put a steering wheel in the wrong hands and a motor vehicle becomes a multi-ton killing machine. And although no criminal intent may be involved, when an officer dies because a careless motorist points a car in the wrong direction, that officer is just as dead as when a felon points a gun and pulls a trigger. That’s exactly why we have the “Move Over” law here in Georgia.”
Georgia’s “Move Over” law is a proven lifesaver, it’s common sense and it has only two steps to remember:
1. Like the name says, it requires drivers to move over one lane if possible whenever an emergency vehicle of any kind is working on the side of the road displaying flashing blue, red, yellow or white emergency lights.
2. If traffic is too congested to move over safely, the law says drivers must slow down, below the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop.
Police have been enforcing this lifesaving law in Georgia since 2003. Now, 42 other states have laws like it.
More than 169 law enforcement officers have been struck and killed by vehicles along America’s highways since 1997. Those tragedies reiterate that each time an officer makes a traffic stop, it’s one of the gravest dangers police can face on the road today.
Last October, Oconee County Deputy David Gilstrap was struck and killed outside his patrol car in what investigators have ruled a “Move Over” law violation. Gilstrap was wearing a reflective vest and directing traffic with two bright orange cone flashlights outside a primary school at 7:25 a.m. when he was struck by a motorist inside the school zone.
“It’s one of the greatest perils of wearing a uniform,” Dallas said. “Our officers observe careless driving nearly every time they make a traffic stop or motorist assist. Anyone who works our roadways is at risk, but our traffic enforcement details are in constant danger.”
And it isn’t just about saving the lives of police officers, deputies and state troopers, Dallas said. “The law also applies to emergency vehicles operated by our firefighters, paramedics, DOT maintenance and construction crews and wrecker drivers. These dedicated professionals put their lives on the line every day to make sure our roads are safe for our families to travel. Now with the economic stimulus funds being used to improve our nation’s roadways, we can expect even more construction crews out working for us and they’re vulnerable,” he said.
The “Move Over” law was passed here after Georgia road crews, traffic enforcement officers and other first responders endured years of roadside deaths and injuries due to errors made by drivers as they sped by police making traffic stops and emergency crews working roadside jobsites.  
“So the ‘Move Over’ law is another good reason to slow down on Georgia’s interstates and rural roads,” Dallas said. “When a motorist makes the required clearance for a roadside emergency vehicle, the margin of safety increases not only for public safety and emergency personnel, but for passing motorists and their passengers as well.”
 

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