Simply standing on the shoulder of a highway is really dangerous. How dangerous? Being a police officer or highway patrolman are clearly hazardous professions. But did you know that being struck and killed by a vehicle is a major cause of law enforcement deaths? When you see a vehicle stopped on the side of the road there’s quite possibly someone nearby. So pull over an extra lane, or slow down to protect those who are risking their lives to help us. It’s the law!
The Spirit Ride
In 2017 and 2018 a ceremonial casket traveled across the country, paying tribute first responders who lost their lives while protecting the public. Visiting 310 cities this Spirit Ride also promoted move over laws and resulted in hundreds of articles plus over a hundred TV news reports. Tow truck companies and operators relayed the casket, hosted ceremonies, and led first-responder truck processions.
Move Over Laws
Today all 50 states have “move over or slow down” laws protecting police, fire, and EMS (emergency medical services) personnel. These laws require special precautions whenever any of these types of vehicles are stopped with their lights and/or siren on. Many states expand the list to include utility company and sanitation trucks as well as private tow trucks. And it’s a very good idea to apply these rules to any disabled vehicle even though it might not be a traffic violation.
These laws require you to merge left, leaving an open lane between you and the stopped vehicle whenever possible. If that’s not possible you must slow down significantly when approaching and passing.
Texas Tow Trucks Too
In Texas these laws originally applied to police, fire, and EMS vehicles. In 2013, TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) road work and construction vehicles as well as tow trucks were added.
You must vacate the closest lane or slow to 20 miles per hour below the posted or applicable speed limit. Where the speed limit is 25 mph or below you must slow to 5 mph. Fines start at $200, rising to $500 if you caused an accident with property damage. And to as high as $2,000 and possible jail time if there was an injury.
These laws are indeed helping, with deaths among roadside workers and first responders falling dramatically. But despite being in effect for over 15 years people often fail to follow the law, and many are even unaware of its existence. So the TxDOT and Texas DPS (Department of Public Safety) have been making a special effort to warn drivers. In 2017 the DPS issued over 10,000 warnings, and that rose to 32,000 for just the first 9 months of 2018.
We want to keep you and our operators safe, so please stay alert and follow these laws. And apply them to any stopped vehicle or person near the highway. Move over, or be ready to be pulled over for a ticket!