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How many California drivers don't know there's a law requiring motorists to move over or slow down when approaching emergency vehicles with lights flashing while stopped on the side of the road? The law is SB1610, and it includes safely steering clear of CalTrans workers, police officers, fire trucks, ambulances, and tow trucks.
We are already required to pull over and make way for approaching emergency vehicles with sirens or lights flashing. This law instructs drivers to safely slow down and/or change lanes (more than one lane adjacent to) any stopped emergency vehicle. Violators face a $50 fine.
The California Highway Patrol originally rejected this law in 2005, arguing that pulling over violators would place traffic and drivers in more danger. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed by vetoing the bill, saying, "This law could result in unintended consequences and additional road hazzards".
However, SB1610 was eventually passed in 2006 before expiring last month, and then re-instated by the Governor on January 1, 2010. Sponsoring Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto says the "Move Over, Slow Down" law closely resembles similiar laws in more than 40 states.
"This bill is about promoting highway safety, plain and simple, says Simitian. "I hope it puts a stop to the senseless deaths of police officers, tow truck drivers, paramedics and other emergency personnel out there simply helping stranded motorists".
Over the past five years more than a dozen police and state road workers have been killed along California roads. The latest was CalTrans worker Don Lichliter, who was struck down by a passing truck in Lodi on July 23, 2009. Since 1924, 176 CalTrans employees have died from roadside accidents.
North Carolina was the first of 45 states to pass such a law in 2002, following the injury or death of 66 state troopers over three-year period. Violators there are fined $250.
If you think that's expensive try Virginia, where passing a stopped police officer without changing lanes is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by a $2500 fine! This may be a bit steep, however, the message here seems clear!
Use common sense! Drive defensively by seeing the BIG picture! (Remember drivers ed. class?) Above all, pay attention around, and, ahead of you....particularly with emergency vehicles.
After all, our law enforcement and emergency professionals put thier lives on the line to protect us every day! Slowing down or changing lanes to give these first responders enough room to work safely, is the least we can do in return! Move over California! It's the law!
Thanks again, and drive safely!