Ticketing to start in emergency zones

Drivers should also move over if they see police, fire vehicles on side of road

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

Published:

 

Starting Friday, state troopers will be issuing $190 tickets to drivers who fail to slow down — and move over one lane, if possible — when they see the flashing lights of fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, tow trucks and vehicles operated by state Department of Transportation employees stopped up ahead on the side of the highway.

At the start of this year, a law took effect that created a 200-foot emergency zone behind and ahead of official vehicles whose drivers are dealing with car crashes, medical problems, felony arrests and other emergencies.

The emergency zone includes the lane nearest the one where emergency officials are parked.

A WSP video on YouTube says it’s easy to avoid a ticket: “Ease off the gas and ease over if it’s safe.”

For example, the video shows, if the emergency vehicles are all stopped on the right shoulder, drivers are required to at least slow down and, if possible, move out of the far-right lane — to create a safety zone for the firefighters, police, paramedics, tow truck drivers and other first responders.

During January, February and March, troopers focused on educating the public about the new emergency zone law, but ticketing starts Friday.

The new law was created for a reason, the bulletin said: “Between 2006 and 2009, the Washington State Patrol alone had 80 collisions involving passing vehicles striking trooper vehicles parked alongside the highway. The major contributing factors in these were speeding or driving too fast for (road, weather and traffic) conditions, followed by DUI.”

Troopers don’t plan stings or crackdowns on emergency zone violations, but instead will ticket motorists as they see the violations occur, the bulletin said.

The $190 ticket fines increase if a driver was speeding or driving recklessly through the emergency zone, and it can be a crime if a driver endangers emergency workers, said Trooper Steve Schatzel, the WSP’s spokesman in this area.

A WSP video, which shows trucks and other traffic passing too close to a trooper and explains the law, is at http://www.youtube.com/user/wspgovandmedia#p/u/1/c9L8YIyt90U.