State strengthens 'move over' law on roadways

Drivers must give troopers on shoulder wider berth

Published:

 

Let’s say you’re driving east on state Highway 14 and you see a state trooper stopped on the shoulder with overhead lights flashing, or a fire truck, ambulance or tow truck.

You know you’re supposed to slow down, for sure, and, if possible, move over a lane, to make it safer for the folks on the shoulder.

But lots of drivers don’t bother. They just keep their speed up, stay in the same lane and whiz by the police or other emergency workers, too close to be safe.

Between 2006 and 2009, 80 drivers hit the patrol cars of Washington State Patrol troopers parked along highways statewide, the agency said in a bulletin Tuesday. The main contributing factors: speeding, driving too fast for road, weather and traffic conditions and DUI.

Longtime Clark County residents may remember Trooper Jim Gain, who was hit by a truck and killed in March 1987. Gain, a friendly, dedicated officer, had pulled a car over for speeding on Interstate 5 in the Salmon Creek area. He was standing on the shoulder when the truck drifted off the roadway and hit him.

Starting Jan. 1, a new state law takes effect that adds more teeth to an earlier “move over” law from 2007.

The new provisions create emergency zones around officials and tow truck drivers who must work alongside roads.

As with construction zones, fines will double for drivers who speed or fail to move over.

In addition, driving that endangers emergency workers becomes a gross-misdemeanor crime. Violators can face possible jail time and a mandatory 60-day suspension of their driver’s license.

The first 90 days after Jan. 1 will be an education period for drivers who troopers pull over for the violations.

“Complying with this new law couldn’t be easier,” WSP Chief John R. Batiste said in the bulletin. “Slow down and move over when approaching emergency workers on the side of the road.”

A tow truck driver recently was killed while working on a roadside, Batiste said.