A reminder to slow down, 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, AAA’s Auto Club Group advises.

Michigan’s Slow Down, Move Over campaign is aimed at reminding motorists of the law to reduce deaths and injuries among emergency vehicles, tow service operators and road crews working along the state’s roadways.

In Michigan, drivers are required to slow down to 10 mph below the speed limit when approaching stopped emergency or roadside assistance vehicles on controlled access highways. After determining it’s safe, drivers then must move over to create a clear lane of traffic as they approach these vehicles, which include tow service, motorists assist units, law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical service, road maintenance, solid waste haulers and utility service vehicles.

If unable to move over due to road or weather conditions, or traffic congestion, drivers still must slow down and maintain a safe speed while passing. Failure to do so may result in a fine up to $400. Causing death or injury to first responders can result in fines of up to $7,500 and/or up to 15 years in prison.

While all 50 states have slow down, move over laws, fewer than 30 percent of Americans know about these laws, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

AAA, which is among the businesses that assist millions of stranded motorists across the country each year, says about 23 roadside workers and first responders — one every other week — lose their life at the roadside, while hundreds more are injured while helping motorists.

To protect roadside workers and improve highway safety, AAA offers these precautionary tips:

— Always remain alert. Avoid distractions and focus on the task of driving.

— Maintain a visual lead of everything going on 20 to 30 seconds ahead of you. This gives you time to see problems ahead and change lanes and adjust speed accordingly.

— Emergencies can occur anywhere on the road. When you see flashing lights, slow down and prepare well in advance to change lanes. Allow others to merge into your lane when necessary.

— Don’t follow semi-trucks or other large vehicles too closely. If a truck moves into a left-hand lane, don’t speed around the right side. They are changing lanes for a reason; be prepared to change lanes yourself.

— When road conditions are slick, don’t make sudden lane changes which can cause an uncontrollable skid. Change lanes early and move over gradually.

— If unable to move over, slow down to a safe speed.

“We’re asking for the public’s support in protecting all first responders who come to the rescue of motorists,” AAA spokeswoman Adrienne Woodland said. “Slow down, move over, as the lives of our highway heroes are on your shoulders.”

For information on laws in other states, go to drivinglaws.aaa.com.