“Move Over” more than a catchy phrase
On a bitter cold January morning, Stillwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Ren Crain saw disaster speeding at him in his rear-view mirror.
Stopped on the shoulder of I-90 between Columbus and Park City to conduct traffic control for a pickup versus semi crash, the deputy was hit from behind in his patrol truck by a vehicle that was trying to pass a semi in the driving lane.
Fortunately, Crain was not seriously injured. But it was a prime example of exactly what not to do when driving past an emergency vehicle.
“I know there have been several ‘near misses’ this winter involving fire and MHP personnel, too,” said Stillwater County Undersheriff Chip Kem.
Montana law spells out exactly how motorists are to drive near first responders — move over as far as possible from any emergency vehicle working a scene or face a possible citation. Drivers also must slow down, as much as 20 mph if they are unable to change lanes to be as far away from the first responder as possible.
The driver who struck Crain’s patrol truck was cited with failing to move over for a stationary emergency vehicle and driving too fast for conditions.
And Crain wasn’t the only first responder to be hit this winter. At least Montana Highway Patrol troopers were hit in their vehicles, along with at least one Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputy and an astounding eight plow trucks. At least three other law enforcement officers were injured in such crashes around the state.
More than once this past winter, the voices of Columbus Fire Rescue and Park City firemen were heard on the radio, excitedly reporting that vehicles were headed straight for them.
And while winter driving is done for the season, for the most part, the presence of first responders on roadways is a constant sight year round.
Move Over Montana
Originally implemented in 2005, state law requires all drivers to slow down and change lanes whenever approaching law enforcement, fire, ambulance, tow trucks and maintenance vehicles.
Since 1999, more than 150 law enforcement officers have been killed by passing vehicles on America’s highways, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. In an effort to lessen that number, a coalition of traffic safety and law enforcement groups have launched a nationwide public awareness campaign. In 2014, Move Over Montana was founded.
According to Move Over Montana group, a national poll sponsored by the National Safety Commission revealed the following:
-71 percent of Americans have not heard of “Move Over” laws
-86 percent support enacting “Move Over” laws in all 50 states
-90 percent believe traffic stops and roadside emergencies are dangerous for Law Enforcement and First Responders.