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Slow down, move over for emergency vehicles

Slow down for emergency vehicles Photo by AAA

Every day, hundreds of emergency responders—firefighters, police, and ambulance and tow-truck drivers—put their lives on the line when they stop on the freeway or alongside the road to help a stranded motorist or someone with a medical emergency.

Too often, these situations end tragically. Responders or the people they’re trying to help are injured or killed—hit by vehicles passing by whose drivers weren’t paying attention and failed to slow down or move into an adjacent lane. In 2019, for example, 44 emergency responders in the U.S.—including 18 law-enforcement officers, 14 tow-truck drivers, and 9 fire/emergency medical service professionals—died after being hit as they were working by the roadside.

It's not just a courtesy, it's the law

All 50 states have Move Over laws for emergency responders, including tow-truck operators, but only 1 in 3 Americans are aware of them, and nearly half don’t realize how dangerous emergency-responder work is. Some laws have been expanded to include all streets, not just freeways and highways.

AAA fully supports such legislation; we’re advocating for stronger laws, including increased penalties for violators, better enforcement, and possibly including stranded vehicles in a list of situations covered by the laws.

“Deaths like these can be avoided if drivers slow down and move over to give these people room to work safely,” said Marshall Doney, AAA National president and CEO. “We can’t stress enough how important it is to pay attention so you have time to change lanes when you see AAA, an emergency responder, or simply anybody along the side of the road.”

Emergency Roadside Service Vehicle

Photo by AAA

How you can help

To prevent more injuries and loss of life to roadside emergency workers, AAA offers these tips:

  • Be alert. Avoid distractions; focus on driving.
  • Scan the area ahead. Occasionally shift your focus so you’re aware of what’s happening 20 to 30 seconds ahead of you. That way, you’ll see potential problems and adjust your speed and lane position accordingly.
  • Recognize and respond. When you see flashing lights, slow down and prepare well in advance to change lanes. Let others merge into your lane if they need to.
  • Don’t tailgate—especially not semi-trucks. Doing so will restrict your field of vision. If a truck moves into a left-hand lane, don’t speed around its right side. It’s changing lanes for a reason—probably because there’s a slow-moving or stopped vehicle on the right. Be prepared to change lanes yourself.
  • Be aware of road conditions. In bad weather, making sudden lane changes can cause you to skid uncontrollably. Change lanes early and move over gradually.
  • If you can’t safely move over, slow down to a safe speed, remaining aware that you’re approaching a workspace with pedestrians.

Excerpted and adapted from the AAA Car Guide, which is also available in hard copy at AAA branches.

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