Move Over Law 101: How Safer Roadsides Are Better for Everyone

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Yet another Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper narrowly avoided catastrophic injury last weekend when his vehicle was hit by an oncoming driver while he was helping a stranded motorist on the side of the road. This comes shortly after last week’s accident involving a MHP cruiser, which was also hit by a motorist while pulled over on the side of the road. This brings to question just how safe the Move Over Law is and whether or not it’s practiced enough in the Jackson area.

The Mississippi Move Over Law went into effect in 2007 and requires motorists driving down multiple-lane roads to move over at least one lane when approaching law enforcement or emergency vehicles that are pulled on over the side of the road. If they are unable to change lanes, motorists are required to slow down to a reasonable speed.

The driver of the truck that hit the patrol trooper’s car was apparently distracted during the time of the accident, Spokesman Sgt. Ray Hall said in the Clarion-Ledger. But the truck driver’s brother believes that he couldn’t see the trooper’s car because of the sun. The car’s positioning with the angle of the sun made it hard to see until he was right on it, he stated, and an 18-wheeler on the other side of the vehicle made it impossible to switch lanes.

Troopers and other responders deal with these near misses very often, MHP Capt. Johnny Poulos stated in the Clarion-Ledger. “You have people not paying attention and all you hear is the tires squeal […] they slam on their breaks, and that causes a chain reaction, and there are accidents caused by that.”

In 2005, 390 workers were killed in struck-by incidents according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. The Move Over, America campaign launched in 2007 and is now overseen throughout all 50 states and led by the National Safety Commission.

You have people not paying attention and all you hear is the tires squeal […] they slam on their breaks, and that causes a chain reaction, and there are accidents caused by that.

“The primary reason for that law is officer safety,” Corp. Odis Easterling of MHP told WMC Action News 5. “A lot of people think, well I couldn’t move over. I’ve heard that before. The next thing to do is slow down. It should be a natural instinct, slow down,” he said.

The law has since expanded to include construction and utility crews working alongside both local roads and busy highways. If drivers fail to abide by this rule, they risk getting ticketed upwards to $250. Mississippi Highway Patrol officers have tried to crack down heavily on violators since the law’s enactment.

Yet transportation safety experts believe that move over laws won’t have an effect unless the public is aware, according to the PEW Charitable Trusts. A survey conducted by the National Safety Commission discovered that 71 percent of American had never heard of move over laws. “We have to do a better job of getting the message out,” Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, told PEW. “These laws have to be very visibly enforced. And the public needs to be educated.”

The Move Over Law continues to be of importance on highways in the Jackson area so as to keep responders and utility truck drivers safe. St. Hall agrees, adding that “This [accident] had the potential to be very tragic. Again, we’ve got to get the message out, people need to be alert.” He continued, “There are workers on the side of the highways, our first responders, our law enforcement every day, in this case trying to aid someone who’s broken down, just doing their duty.”

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