WASHINGTON, D. C. (Friday, July 16, 2021) –– The tragic death of a AAA tow truck driver in Ohio highlights the risks faced by emergency first responders here in the District of Columbia, in nearby Maryland and Virginia, and around the country.
More than 80 tow truck drivers participated in a procession in honor of 32-year old Glenn Ewing during his funeral services. The tow truck driver was killed on July 4th while placing a disabled vehicle on the back of a flatbed on the side of the road.
“When one of our colleagues is lost, we’re all affected,” said James Tribby, Operations Manager, AAA Upper Marlboro Roadside Assistance Fleet Depot. “He died while helping a driver on the side of the road – it can happen to any one of us.”
Ewing’s death illustrates why Move Over laws are critical to safety. The best thing drivers can do to keep someone safe on the side of the road is slow down, and move over into the next lane, if you can do so safely. Locally, on November 7, 2019, a tow truck driver, David Reinerio Pineda Alvarez, was killed in a fatal hit-and-run crash in Prince George’s County while he was assisting a AAA member in the area of southbound Branch Avenue and Coventry Way in Temple Hills, Maryland.
“We can’t stress enough how important it is that drivers move over and change lanes when they see AAA or any other first responder working in and around traffic,” Tribby added. “By doing so you are also potentially saving someone’s life.”
Move Over laws exist in all 50 states. AAA and other traffic safety advocates have been instrumental in the passage of laws to better protect tow truck drivers and other first responders.
“First responders work tirelessly to make our roads safer for all of us,” said PO3 John C. Johnson, Traffic Division, Montgomery County Police Department. “In return, they ask to be afforded a safe place to work in order to perform their job so that they may return to their families each day. We encourage everyone to please move over and slow down for these workers, and help spread the word. It’s not just the law. It’s the right thing to do.”
Distractions Behind the Wheel
As more people hit the roads after COVID-related confinement and for summer travel, the number of vehicles on the road is increasing, and the risks associated with distractions will also increase. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the national traffic safety research arm of AAA, found that drivers are four times more likely to crash if they are talking on a cell phone while driving and eight times more likely to be in a crash if texting.
“Drivers talking on a phone or otherwise distracted may not readily see a vehicle on the side of the road in enough time to safely move over to the next lane,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “In safety, split seconds count.”
Washington, D.C.’s Move Over Law
Washington, D.C.’s “slow down, move over law” was enacted as part of the Vision Zero rulemaking process on January 4, 2019. Failing to move over, or failing to proceed with due caution, while an authorized emergency vehicle is stopped on the side of the road in the District is six points, while failure to proceed with due caution when approaching an incident in the roadway is three points.
Maryland’s Move Over Law
In 2018, representatives from Maryland State Police and the Maryland Department of Transportation joined AAA and other officials, and traffic safety advocates to announce the expansion of Maryland’s “Slow Down, Move Over” law. These laws are designed to save the lives of police officers, emergency response workers, tow truck operators, and with the expanded law in Maryland, public service workers, by providing an extra barrier of safety for them as they work along the side of the road.
Maryland State Police Statistics
In 2014, Maryland State Troopers went from issuing 5,408 citations and 12,179 warnings for Move Over violations to 1,349 citations and 5,677 warnings in 2018 for the offense, according to the Maryland State Police. “Through Sept. 26, 2019, troopers have issued 1,347 citations and 4,979 warnings for similar violations.” In addition, statewide, “more than 17,000 motorists have received citations or warnings from all police for violating the “Move Over” law in Maryland since the law expanded in October 2018. From 2014 to 2018, more than 3,400 people were injured, and 46 people were killed in work zone crashes in Maryland.”
Virginia’s Move Over Law
Virginia’s “Slow Down, Move Over law” requires approaching vehicles to proceed with caution and, if reasonable, make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to a stationary emergency vehicle. If a lane change is unreasonable or unsafe, the approaching vehicle must proceed with due caution and maintain a safe speed. Virginia’s law was first enacted in 2002 for red and blue emergency lights for police, fire and rescue. In 2010, lawmakers expanded the law to include amber colored lights used by roadside rescue, tow truck operators, and VDOT highway construction crews. In 2019, after Hanover County Firefighter Lt. Brad Clarke was struck and killed by a tractor trailer while working a traffic crash along 295, the state increased the punishment for drivers who violate certain portions of the state’s Move Over Law. For those offenses, it’s now a reckless driving charge which is a class 1 misdemeanor. Violators can be punished by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500.
AAA and its traffic safety partners will strengthen advocacy and community awareness throughout the year, including ‘National Move Over Day” which happens every third Saturday in October.
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