Move Over and Save Lives

Sometimes, I feel like driving on the interstate has become like driving in a war zone with hidden landmines. For instance, there are distracted drivers everywhere, occasional reports of people behind the wheel overdosing on heroin and driverless trucks becoming a part of our future. Some think driverless trucks are a good thing, eliminating the human fatigue factor that is a dilemma for drivers making a long haul. Of course, other folks are terrified this unproven technology might be even more dangerous than current conditions.

But back to distracted driving, which has increased dramatically due to cellphone activities such as talking, texting, sending emails, checking social media accounts, etc. Distracted drivers might be one significant reason why our state’s “Move Over Law,” pertaining to interstates and state highways, was expanded in 2013.

“Ohio’s Move Over Law… requires all drivers to move over one lane passing by any vehicle with flashing or rotating lights parked on the roadside,” according to the Ohio Department of Transportation website.

“The original law took effect in 1999 to reduce risk to law-enforcement officers and emergency responders. It was expanded in December 2013 to apply to every stationary vehicle with flashing lights, including road construction, maintenance and utility crews.”

Of course, sometimes it’s not safe to move over on a two-lane highway, and the Move Over law has that covered. Also, in instances where traffic or weather prohibit safely moving to the other lane, “In those situations, slow down and proceed with caution,” advises the ODOT website.

Sadly, nationwide, one law enforcement officer and 23 highway workers are killed each month, and a tow truck driver loses his life every six days in a roadside accident, reports the same website. Yet there continues to be some confusion about the law, as many well-meaning citizens believe that moving over is simply a common courtesy and not an actual state law. Other individuals are negligent distracted drivers who are not paying attention and recklessly endangering the lives of others. 

Tragically, in June, Matthew Mazany, a Mentor police officer, was hit and killed on Route 2 during a traffic stop. North Coast Emergency Services co-owner, John Leonello, knew Mazany through his company’s work providing roadside assistance in the area.

“Leonello believes more awareness of the (Move Over) law in the form of a public service campaign is needed, and (believes) it needs to be taught more consistently in drivers education classes,” reported Cleveland’s ABC News Channel 5’s Joe Pagonakis. Prompted by Officer Mazany’s death, Leonello and his business partner Chris Haire, told News 5’s Pagonakis, they believe the state needs to “launch a stronger public awareness campaign similar to the ‘Click It or Ticket’ public service announcements on television, radio and online” to prevent the deaths of law enforcement personnel and other roadside workers. Haire told News 5’s Pagonakis, “… more awareness is needed and (Haire) said distracted driving is another major cause of roadside fatalities.”

The Ohio State Highway Patrol did try to do something to enlighten motorists about the Move Over Law during the week of July 22-28 through an “Enforcement and Awareness campaign” by issuing 586 citations to drivers. Ignorance of the law is not a defense, and drivers might be surprised by the weighty consequences this law can possibly carry.

The ODOT website explains, “… the issue is so serious that fines are doubled. Violators are fined (up to) 2 x $150 for the first violation (a minor misdemeanor), 2 x $250 for the same violation within a year of the first, and 2 x $500 for more than two violations in a year.” Jail time can also be possible for drivers who have had prior traffic offenses.

The majority of states do have some type of Move Over Law, and many also have signage enabling drivers to realize that moving over is not a courtesy or a suggestion but a state law. For instance, Tennessee has signs that read, “State Law – Move Over For Stopped Emergency Vehicles.”

So, maybe in Ohio, we can do a little better by updating some of our current signs that say, “Move Over For Stopped Vehicles with Flashing Lights” by adding, “Move Over: It’s state law.”

Maybe, too, some of the revenue from all those Move Over tickets this past July could be used for billboards and a public service campaign letting folks know that moving over whenever possible is the law, a law that could save lots of precious lives!

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. Her fall 2018 book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is available through all major online booksellers. 

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