Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski says motorists are required by law to make sure they give vehicles with warning lights plenty of room to operate, even on smaller two-lane roads. It has been about a week since a Green Bay area tow truck driver was struck while helping a stalled vehicle on U.S. 41. It renewed calls for motorists to follow the “Move Over Law”, requiring vehicles to safely change lanes away from where emergency vehicles and others with warning lights may be located. Joski says it even applies on smaller streets and rural roads where there may be only two available lanes.
Joski encourages motorists to extend the same courtesy to cyclists, runners, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Not moving over will cost you over $260 in fines and three demerit points on your license. You can learn more about this topic from Sheriff Matt Joski online with this story.
FROM SHERIFF JOSKI
This past week, we experienced another tragedy in our state due to the dangerous conditions to those who are stopped on the side of the road rendering aid to another. In this situation it was a tow truck operator assisting a motorist in need; however it could have just as well been a utility worker trying to improve our infrastructure, or first responder serving their community. What makes this event an even greater tragedy is that it was preventable. Those of us, who have had the experience of responding to a call which required us to carry out our duties in close proximity to moving traffic, can attest to the high degree of danger this type of environment can create. Even with the red and blues flashing, I have still had my own close encounters with vehicles whose drivers were more focused on the distraction of the incident than their own responsibility as a driver to safely navigate around the immediate area.
It is also beyond logic that years after the creation of legislation specifically aimed at creating a safety zone for those assisting others on the side of the road; we still have drivers failing to understand their duties to “Move Over”. So let’s start with the law itself.
Wisconsin State Statute 346.072 “Passing Stopped Emergency or Roadside Service Vehicles” applies to any of the following vehicles that are parked or standing within 12 feet of the roadway displaying their respective warning lights.
- An authorized emergency vehicle
- A tow truck
- Any road machinery of motor vehicle used in highway construction
- Any vehicle of a public utility, telecommunications carrier or cooperative association
The actions that other motor vehicles are to take is stated as such; on four lane divided highways you are two move to the lane that is not nearest to the vehicle stopped. On a two lane roadway you are to slow down and continue in a reduced speed using due regard until you have completely passed the stopped vehicle.
The fine for failing to follow this very important law is $263.50 and three demerit points to your license. But more importantly the cost of failing to follow this very simple common courtesy could mean the life of another person.
I would also add that this law is just the statutory minimum of required behavior, but I know that we can do much better. We could use this same cautious approach as we are passing any motor vehicle stopped along the side of the road, or how about we apply this courtesy to those walking along a roadway, or riding a bike. Too often I have seen drivers open themselves and others up to needless risk by not showing due regard when in close proximity. Each year on our Law Enforcement Torch Run, I feel the wind rush passed my back as a vehicle speeds by within inches of me without giving a thought to slowing down or creating a safe distance. In the mornings I run along STH 42 and am always grateful for those drivers who make deliberate efforts to slow down and maybe even give a wave or a honk.
On the other side of this message I would also say to those who find themselves along a road for any reason to not assume anything. Don’t assume that the vehicle approaching from ahead or behind you is paying attention or that they see you or your vehicle. Whether driving biking walking or running, make yourself as visible as possible by use of lights, flares, clothing or reflective material.
There are plenty of unavoidable tragedies we all face in our lives, let’s do our best to eliminate the preventable ones.