Commentary: Responders’ lives are on your shoulders

Since 2007, Delaware has a law in the code requiring drivers to slow down and move over for emergency vehicles, from first responders to tow truck operators, to keep the men and women who are assisting others safe.

Slow Down, Move Over laws are designed to save the lives of our police officers, emergency response workers and tow truck operators by providing an extra barrier of safety for them as they work along the side of the road.

Ken Grant

The law requires drivers approaching one of these vehicles with red, yellow or amber flashing lights, from the rear, that is stopped, standing or parked along the highway to, when possible, move over a lane. If the driver is unable to safely change lanes, the law requires the driver to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing conditions while passing the emergency or service vehicle.

Since 2007, AAA has been a vocal advocate for the passage of Slow Down, Move Over laws, working across the country, to save lives. As of 2017, all 50 states now have the law on the books, including protection for tow truck operators.

Despite having the laws, unfortunately, we are still losing law enforcement officers, tow truck operators and others as they conduct business on the roadways. Motor vehicle-related incidents are consistently the leading cause of work-related fatalities in the United States.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation-related incidents are consistently the most common fatal occupational event. Compounding the issue, over 70 percent of Americans have not heard of move-over laws, according to a national poll by Mason Dixon Polling & Research, sponsored by the National Safety Commission.

As millions take to the roadways this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, law enforcement officers, tow truck operators and roadside workers will be putting themselves at risk to keep the rest of us safe. AAA expects to rescue more than 368,000 motorists this Thanksgiving weekend.

To ensure the safety of everyone, motorists can obey the rules of the road this holiday season by avoiding distractions and observing posted speed limits. Remember, whether there is a police officer, ambulance, fire truck or someone fixing a tire or towing a vehicle on the side of the road, slow down, move away and change lanes to create safe space around them. Their lives are on your shoulders.

Ken Grant is the public and government affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic in Delaware.

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