Published on Sunday, March 19, 2006
in the Gainesville Sun
Last Monday, Micanopy firefighter Denise Roberts was assisting injured people at the scene of an accident on I-75 when she was struck by a minivan and ended up an accident victim herself.
"I didn't quite make it over the guardrail in time," Roberts, who suffered contusions and a minor concussion, told The Sun.
Unfortunately, collisions between emergency workers and motorists are too often an occupational hazard. Between 1996 and 2000 alone, motorists in Florida crashed into law-enforcement and rescue vehicles that were stopped beside the roadways - with their warning lights flashing -1,793 times. The result: five deaths and 419 injuries.
Those statistics prompted passage of the Move Over Act. It has two basic provisions:
- On highways with two or more lanes traveling in the same direction, when a law-enforcement or emergency vehicle is stopped by the roadside with emergency lights on, motorists must move out of the lane closest to the stopped vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so unless otherwise directed by an officer.
- When emergency vehicles are stopped on a two-lane road, drivers must slow to 20 mph. If the posted speed limit is 20 mph or less, motorists must slow to 5 mph.
But many motorists still haven't gotten the message. During a recent three-hour roadside emergency drill, Miramar Police officers reportedly stopped 150 vehicles for failure to move over.
Law enforcement agencies are planning a crackdown on such errant motorists. Violators will be fined and three points assessed against their driving record.
Last month, Broward County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Seguin, 23, was killed when he was struck by a passing vehicle while conducting a traffic stop on Interstate 595. In January, Trooper Darryl Haywood Jr. was hit and sustained serious head injuries while writing a ticket just south of Hollywood on the Florida Turnpike. More recently, Donald Bradshaw, 66, who helped stranded motorists as part of the Florida Department of Transportation's Road Rangers program, was run down and killed as he was placing cones to close a lane blocked by a wrecked car on Interstate 275 near downtown Tampa.
A Florida Highway Patrol spokesman told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the Move Over Act is basically a matter of "paying attention. If there is a lane open, move over or slow down. You can see the lights from far away, so start preparing and start looking to see if a lane is available."
Law-enforcement officers and emergency workers have a difficult and dangerous job. Motorists can make it a little safer by moving over on multiple-lane roads or slowing down on two-lane roads.