You see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road with its lights flashing.  Maybe it’s a police officer writing some poor slob a ticket.  Or, perhaps it’s an ambulance, a fire truck, a courtesy car or even a tow truck (in some states, the law also includes tow truck operators and highway workers).  WHAT SHOULD YOU DO??  You would be amazed at how many people wouldn’t know what to do. In fact, a national poll by Mason Dixon Pollling & Research, sponsored by the National Safety Commission states that 71% of American have not heard of the “Move Over” laws.

Forty three states have passed “Move Over” laws, which require motorists to “Move Over” and change lanes to give safe clearance to law enforcement officers on roadsides.  One would think that it would be just plain common sense to move over a lane or at least slow down when approaching a scene. But more than 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed since 1997 after being struck by vehicles along America’s highways, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. I have met a few ambulance drivers who have recounted stories of co-workers they have lost to a rubber-necker who not only did not move over a lane or slow down, but drove right into the scene of the accident. Killing the E.M.T.’s trying to save someone and the person they were trying to save. It’s likely the rubber-necker was drunk (a drunker-necker). Apparently drunk drivers are attracted to flashing lights. Like blondes are attracted to shiny objects. Diamonds, should anyone ask.

“Move Over America” is the national effort to make drivers aware of the “Move Over” laws, which require motorists to “Move Over” and changes lanes to give safe clearance to law enforcement officers on roadsides.  Equally important is the action of creating attention in those states where there is no such law at present.  Their website has a U.S. map of move over laws by state.  While California and Iowa hit you with a $50 fine, other states dish up more meaty fines.  South Dakota serves up a class 2 misdemeanor, Virginia is a class 1 misdemeanor and Arkansas awards you with a $500 fine plus 90 days in jail, 7 days of community service, 90 day license suspension. Michigan, Tennessee and West Virginia are runners-up in their penalties. Generally in most states, the fine is a hefty one because you just put a law enforcement officer, emergency medical tech, fireman, courtesy patrol or tow truck drivers life in danger. Fair enough!

I notice when out there in the road rage mobile (that what I call her…every girl has a pet name for their car…that’s mine), some police officers still write tickets on the drivers side of the car, rather than going around to the passenger side where it would seem much safer.  And the shoulder is just wide enough for a car.  Not a car and a cop. You ever pull over on the highway to change drivers, get something out of the trunk, or to dump a body?? It feels like those semi trucks are going to suck you right under them. I’ve watched those t.v. shows where they show cops being hit by cars on the freeway or the car hitting the squad car, causing it to careen into the car being pulled over. Yikes! You ever watch that show COPS?  I watch it just to see if I have any family members on there. And I usually do.  So this is how the Move Over Law works. If you see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road with its lights flashing, you need to move over and put an empty lane between you and them for their safety.  Or, if you can’t move over because you’re on a two lane road, or maybe there’s traffic in the next lane and you can’t move over, then you must slow down 20 miles under the posted speed limit. This does not only apply to the highway. If the speed limit is below 25mph, the driver must slow down to 5mph…i.e. school zone)

And if you don’t??  Maybe you think you got away with it because that officer’s standing outside that car writing someone else a ticket. And you think “He’s not going to drop what he’s doing and jump in his car and come after me.”  But cops use a buddy system.  One officer would make an initial stop — for traffic violations — and then another officer would be close by to nab those who didn’t follow the move-over law.  HUGE FINE!

Until next week…look out for others…they may not have 5,141 friends on Facebook, but somebody loves them.

Daun Thompson

(Daun Thompson is a comedienne, writer and artist residing in Dallas, Texas)