Gov. Jan Brewer recently signed a bill into law that extends the current "move over" law and provides protection for anyone stuck on the side of a freeway or highway.
Under the old move over law, which was passed in 2005, motorists were asked to slow down or move over a lane when approaching an emergency vehicle on the side of the road. Expansion of the law, Senate Bill 1133, gives the same protection to any motorist displaying flashing lights on the side of the road.
"It's an important safety measure," said Kevin Biesty, government relations director for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). "When you're driving down the freeway, sometimes in excess of 75 mph and you have an individual with a broken down car on the side of the road and they need to work on it, or if there's a highway worker working and they need room to maneuver equipment, they should be afforded the courtesy of either moving over or slowing down. You never know when a vehicle's on the side of the road what can happen."
According to AAA Arizona, before the original move over law was passed in 2005 eight Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers had lost their lives while performing roadside duties. Since the law passed no officers have lost their lives.
"It was interesting when this bill went through in 2005, people were saying ‘Isn't that common sense? Isn't that already the law?'" Biesty said. "The answer is no. Yes, it's common sense but sometimes you can't teach common sense. Now we can incorporate this in driving school manuals and driving tests and use it as an education tool."
Biesty said when the law was decided it was not something they did to be able to give out more tickets. It was something they wanted to do to protect roadside workers and inform people of the dangers of not slowing down or moving over.
AAA worked with ADOT and DPS to lobby for this legislation.
"AAA responds to more than 1,200 calls for emergency roadside assistance every day in Arizona," said Michelle Donati, spokesperson for AAA Arizona. "Every year roadside workers are seriously injured or killed as a result of inadequate move over law protection. The most recent tragedy we had at AAA was August of 2008. A AAA tow truck driver and the motorist he was assisting were killed when a heavy equipment truck veered into them. In 2006 there were two other tow truck drivers who lost their lives while providing roadside assistance. We applaud our state lawmakers for addressing the need to have a comprehensive move over law."
The new law will go into effect on July 20. Failure to obey this law could result in a ticket of up to $250, plus court-levied penalty assessments.
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