Published on Wednesday, March 8, 2006
in the Miami Herald
Miramar is trying to educate drivers who don't slow down or move aside when emergency vehicles are at the edge of the road.
Weeks after a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy was killed after being hit by a car while making a traffic stop, Miramar police are warning motorists about a state law that requires drivers to move over when they see officers at the side of the road.
The Miramar Police Department is the latest law enforcement agency to launch a campaign about the ''Move Over'' law, which requires motorists to steer a lane away from police, ambulances and tow truck drivers at the side of the road. Last weekend, the Florida Highway Patrol did two days of ''Operation Safe Ride,'' across the state, with troopers cracking down on speeders and drivers who refused to slow down or move a lane over from traffic stops.
''We hope it's going to save our lives,'' said Sgt. Mark Wysocky, a spokesman for FHP. ``We want people to move over and give us room to do our jobs at the side of the road.''
On Tuesday, Miramar police staged a faux traffic stop, complete with a police cruiser flashing its lights at the side of the road behind a pulled-over motorist -- actually a city vehicle.
Drivers on Miramar Parkway who did not change lanes away from the scene, or who did not slow down, got nabbed by Miramar police.
More than 200 scofflaws were flagged down and issued a warning and a pamphlet about the 2002 move-over law.
''About 90 percent of the people were not familiar with the law or thought it was only for interstate travel,'' said Miramar police spokesman Officer Bill Robertson.
Miramar will continue issuing warnings throughout the city, then things will become less friendly. On March 20, the city will start issuing citations, to the tune of $115.50.
''We really don't want to have to ticket people. We would rather have people comply,'' said Miramar police Maj. Raymond Black.
Since February, Florida law enforcement officers such as the Highway Patrol and the Broward Sheriff's Office have been doing an awareness push about the move over law.
''It's a matter of life and death,'' said Elliott Cohen, BSO spokesman. ``We are being encouraged to enforce the law more rigorously than in the past.''
On Feb. 15, BSO Deputy Ryan Seguin was killed after being hit by a car while making a traffic stop in the westbound lanes of Interstate 595, just west of Flamingo Road.
Since 2001, there has been an average of more than 700 crashes a year in which someone hits a law enforcement vehicle stopped on the roadside or slowing down to stop. At least three people have died in such crashes in Florida since 2001.
The move-over law requires motorists to switch a lane away from emergency personnel at the side of the road.
If traffic is too bad, the drivers are supposed to slow down to 20 mph below the speed limit. Those who are cited and convicted get three points on their license and may face a $115.50 fine.