Motorists reminded to ‘move over’ for emergency vehicles

The sight of lights flashing atop an emergency vehicle ahead should prompt all motorists to move to another lane or slow down as they carefully pass by.

Unfortunately, drivers in Michigan seem to need regular reminders about that obligation.

A public service announcement released this month calls on motorists to follow Michigan’s “Move Over” law.

“Twenty-four hours each day, emergency personnel are on duty working to protect us from harm,” Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said. “We ask motorists to return the favor — and follow the law — by moving over a lane when they see police and fire vehicles, ambulances, tow trucks or other emergency responders stopped on the road or the edge of the road.”

Johnson, Michigan State Police Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue and several emergency responders are featured in the video, which begins with state police footage of a tow truck driver narrowly escaping with his life as a car smashes into his vehicle.

In effect since 2001, Michigan’s Emergency Vehicle Caution Law requires drivers who see a pulled-over, stationary emergency vehicle or tow truck — with flashing, rotating or oscillating lights on — move over at least one lane or two vehicle widths. If moving over can’t be done, motorists must slow down and pass with caution. Violators face fines or jail.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, more than 20,000 emergency responders nationwide are injured or killed every year during traffic incidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that the No. 1 cause of law enforcement deaths is traffic incidents. About six to eight fire rescue and emergency medical service personnel each year are killed in or near moving traffic, as are 10 to 12 police officers, according to a report cited by the Pew Center. The Emergency Responder Safety Institute estimates a tow operator is killed every six days in the United States while providing roadside or towing services.

Wisconsin, too, has a “Move Over” law, and in both states it’s not just for police or state troopers. The laws state flashing lights on an ambulance, fire truck, tow truck, highway maintenance vehicle or utility vehicle stopped on the side of a road translate into moving over.

So do those trying to do an already difficult job a favor — follow the law by slowing down and, when possible, moving over.

Michigan’s “Move Over” public service video can be viewed on YouTube and downloaded online.