By Master Trooper Gary Cutler
Colorado State Patrol
On Nov. 26, 2016, my friend Trooper Cody Donahue was killed by a truck that failed to move over while he was investigating a crash. This is a story we hear all too often.
Prior to that crash, there was a Move Over law already in effect. So why didn’t it work in that situation or countless others? I believe there are several reasons for that. Fully knowing the law is one of them; the other is not paying attention to your surroundings.
The Move Over law is set up to assist law enforcement, fire and ambulance crews, maintenance workers and tow truck operators to be able to be safer when they are performing their duties on the side of the road.
I have always been a huge advocate of not just looking out for emergency workers, but including anyone you see on the side of the road. Whether they are changing a tire, taking a break or just making a call (thank you for that, by the way.)
When are you required to move over? Any time you see any in that first list of people. The Move Over law requires drivers to either move over or slow down. Simply put, Move Over requires the driver to move one lane away, giving a buffer lane between you and emergency workers on the shoulder or roadway.
When moving over is not available as an option, then you are required to slow down when going by emergency workers. One problem with that has been drivers not understanding what speed they should go when in these situations. New legislation this year added a defined speed which I think will help curb this problem. The new addition to the law simply states if you are going 45 mph or faster, you should lower your speed by 20 mph. If the speed limit is less than 45 mph, then you are required to slow to 25 mph.
With an actual speed listed for these situations, it should take that guesswork out of what to do and, hopefully, make it much safer for everyone involved. These speeds also need to take into consideration any other factors that may require the speed to be even lower.
In a lot of rural areas, you won’t have two lanes going in the same direction very often, so it will come down to complying by lowering your speed.
I also want to touch on the subject of being prepared when you get to an emergency worker on the side of the road. A lot of people wait until the last moment to either move over or slow down. If this isn’t done far enough in advance, it can become a hazard within itself. Make sure you are looking beyond your hood. This means always be scanning for hazards. If you see something ahead on the shoulder, start to begin speed or moving lanes prior to getting there so it doesn’t have to be a quick brake or lane change. This will give others behind you a chance to react and less of a chance of a secondary crash.
As always, safe travels.