"Move over" law too often ignored, say highway workers - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

'Move over' law too often ignored, say highway workers

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A law very important to the safety of first responders seems to have been forgotten and continues to be violated on a daily basis.

Every day, hundreds of drivers -- most of them barreling down the Highway at 65 miles an hour -- rush past law enforcement officers, tow truck drivers, emergency personnel and utility workers.

"Anytime you go out to a call, you don't know what you are going to encounter," said tow truck driver Mike Filice.

These men and women, who are parents, spouses and friends, often face life-and-death situations.

"I kiss my kids goodbye, I kiss my wife goodbye because, with the risks that are involved, I don't know if I am coming back," Filice added.

Under California law known as the "Move Over or Slow Down" law, drivers must create a one-lane buffer for emergency vehicles on the side of the road. That means if you see the flashing lights up ahead or in your rearview mirror, you have to move one lane over to create a safety zone, but not everyone knows about or follows the law.

"We've had a lot of officers that were on stops on the right-hand shoulder or just parked on the right-hand shoulder and they've been hit. One, specifically, has been killed and another one broke both his legs, so this is a big deal," said Officer Jordan Richards with the California Highway Patrol.

The law states that drivers who cannot safely move over must at least slow down.

When out next to the highway, the only thing between a worker and a 4,000-pound vehicle is the white line.

"When you are right there and the cars are flying by you at 65 miles per hour, you just kind of hold your breath," said Alex Savin, a Caltrans tree maintenance supervisor.

Caltrans launched a 'Move Over' campaign in 2011 to increase awareness about the law but over the years it's been ignored or forgotten by some.

"That one lane to the left was free and clear, there was no cars in front or behind you," Officer Richards said as he made a traffic stop. "You had more than enough space to move over to the left."

"A learning point: if it's safe to do so, to go ahead and cross over and allow a little more room," said Vincent Palacios, an Arroyo Grande resident.

Simply give them some space and remember when you see lights, vests or reflectors, move over. It's the law.

"The highway is the office for these road workers. The men and the women who are working here want to go home to their families each day," said Jim Shivers with Caltrans.

Failing to move over or slow down can cost you a $200-$300 fine.

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