In-Depth: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced this bill to reduce first responder roadside deaths:
“We’ve seen heartbreaking roadside accidents in Illinois this year, and we need to reverse the alarming rise in first responder roadside deaths. The Protecting Roadside First Responders Act will provide states with the resources to better enforce ‘Move Over’ laws and help keep our first responders safe."
Original cosponsor Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) adds:
“The troubling pattern of first responder roadside deaths demands action. I’m glad to be working with Senator Durbin and Representative Bustos on this important legislation that will help increase awareness of ‘Move Over’ laws and promote innovative solutions to reduce risk and better protect our first responders.”
House sponsor Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) says:
“We need to bring an end to the preventable tragedies we have seen along our major roads and highways. This legislation will help do just that by ensuring our ‘Move Over’ laws are followed, crash avoidance technology is implemented and our first responders are protected. As the wife of a sheriff, I’m grateful for the work our first responders do every day and I thank Senators Durbin and Duckworth for partnering on these efforts.”
Rep. Bustos says this bill provides important funding to make people aware of life-saving Move Over laws:
“We want to make sure that there is funding for public awareness [of Move Over laws] so that [lack of awareness, which is currently] 70% gets down to — if we can have any say about it — 0%. We have good laws in Illinois and we have to make sure that people know about them… [This bill] allows states to apply for federal grants to educate the public, and to purchase and deploy digital alert technology, which could be a real godsend in the future."
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) supports this bill. Its president, Cathy Chase, says:
“The job of first responders on our highways who are saving lives and protecting motorists should not be a death-defying act. The Protecting Roadside First Responders Act attacks this problem head-on by taking a comprehensive approach to combating distraction and other crash factors that lead to roadside collisions and needless tragedies. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) commends Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and Representative Cheri Bustos for their safety leadership in introducing this legislation. It will ensure proven technologies – automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and blind spot detection systems – are in all new cars, and not just luxury models, as well as in new federal fleet vehicles. Advocates also supports the strong focus on ‘Move Over’ laws and the need for increasing public awareness combined with advancing technological countermeasures. These important provisions will help better protect the heroes on our highways, law enforcement officers and emergency responders.”
Some say Move Over laws are used as a trap for drivers, rather than as a way to keep first responders safe. In Georgia, State Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) argues that his state’s law is too vague, and that the hefty $500 fine associated with breaking it makes it clear that the Move Over law is “clearly being used for revenue enhancement,” which isn’t its original intent.
This legislation has one Senate cosponsor, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Its House companion, sponsored by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), has one House cosponsor, Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN).
Of Note: As of October 2019, there had been 29 auto-related first responder deaths nationwide in 2019 — an increase of eight over the 2018 figure of 21 auto-related first responder deaths at the same point in the year.
Move Over laws apply to two conditions involving emergency vehicles displaying flashing emergency lights:
- When motorists see flashing lights and hear sirens, especially in their rear view mirrors or at an intersection, they’re supposed to move over to the right to allow a first responder vehicle to get through as quickly as possible.
- When motorists see stationary flashing lights ahead of them in the same direction, they’re supposed to pull to the left at least one lane (two if possible) and slow down, alert and ready to receive additional driving instructions from the police.
The first Move Over law was passed in South Carolina in 1966 to protect emergency responders when they were stopped on the side of the road. Before this law’s passage, a first responder was held at fault for being too close to the side of the road if they were struck by oncoming motorists. The need for this law was realized when James D. Garcia, a paramedic, was deemed “at fault” after being hit while helping a patient on the side of the road.
In 2000, the Dept. of Transportation and Federal Highway Association (FHA) began discussing their concerns for first responder safety when stopped to help others. This led to the creation of a national standard, and states began adopting their own Move Over laws over the 2008s and 2010s. Hawaii was the last state to pass a state-level move over law, with its legislation passing in July 2012.
Studies show that more than 70% of Americans are unaware of Move Over Laws.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / tillsonburg)