Slow Down, Move Over

Photo: Ford, Brad

This Saturday, October 21, is National Slow Down Move Over Day. The day occurs on the third Saturday of every October to remind drivers to slow down and move over when a stationary tow truck or emergency vehicle is on the side of the road.

Helping stranded drivers on the side of the road is one of America’s most deadly jobs. On average, two emergency responders, including tow workers, are struck and killed every month by drivers who fail to obey the law by moving over to an adjacent lane and allowing the roadside rescuers the space to operate safely, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Roadside crashes are notably deadly for tow workers. Government data shows that tow operators are killed at a rate of almost 43 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to just three for all other industries.

In Oregon, 13 people were killed in crashes while outside a disabled vehicle from 2017 through 2021. Nationwide, 1,874 were killed in that same timeframe, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

AAA’s Move Over for Me campaign calls attention to the devastating consequences for individuals, families, and communities whenever an emergency responder is injured or killed at the roadside. Drivers are encouraged to remain alert, avoid distractions, and watch out for emergency vehicles on the side of the road. If you see one, please slow down and move over to give emergency responders more room to safely do their job.

While all 50 States have Slow Down Move Over laws, driver awareness and compliance are inconsistent. With highway speeds often 65 mph or more, drivers may find it difficult to spot and react to incident response personnel, including tow truck drivers, police, and emergency responders.

In Oregon, drivers must move over to another lane or slow down at least five miles per hour below the posted speed limit when approaching first responders (police fire, and ambulance), tow trucks, municipal and road maintenance vehicles, utility vehicles, as well as any vehicle that is stopped and is displaying warning or hazard lights, or a person is indicating distress by using emergency flares or posting emergency signs. The fine for a violation is $265 or $525 if within a safety corridor, school zone or work zone. (ORS 811.147

Unfortunately, a previous AAA study shows that many drivers don’t comply with Slow Down Move Over laws, and others aren’t even aware that these laws exist.

AAA has tips for drivers to protect emergency responders, roadside workers and drivers with disabled vehicles:

  • Remain alert, avoid distractions and focus on the task of driving.
  • Keep an eye out for situations where emergency vehicles, tow trucks, utility service vehicles or disabled vehicles are stopped on the side of the road.
  • When you see these situations, slow down and if possible, move one lane over and away from the people and vehicles stopped at the side of the road.
  • If you are driving, don’t get impaired. If you’re impaired, don’t drive.

“Please slow down and move over if you see a vehicle, person, or warning lights, flares or cones on the shoulder ahead. You could be saving someone’s life,” says Dodds. “AAA service techs and other emergency responders are often only just a few inches away from speeding vehicles as they do their jobs. Let’s keep them safe and make sure they can go home at the end of their shifts!”

Source: AAA

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