JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Move over, slow down. Four words emergency response officials are asking drivers to remember as we head into the busy holiday travel season.
A new study by AAA shows many drivers are not aware of Missouri’s “Move Over” law. Between 2015 and 2019, 42 people were killed in the Show-Me State while outside a disabled vehicle on the side of the road.
Under the law, drivers are required to change lanes, if possible, when approaching an emergency vehicle with its lights on.
The director for Missouri’s Department of Transportation said Friday this law is personal for MoDOT after two of its employees were killed three weeks ago while on the job.
“You see the lights, you slow down, you move over,” MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said. “I tell you; this is personal for MoDOT. We’ve experience tragedy here in our workforce in the last couple of weeks in our St. Louis district with two of our heroes killed in the line of duty, just doing their jobs.”
MoDOT crews were re-striping a lane on Telegraph Road by I-255 the week before Thanksgiving. The MoDOT truck’s lights were on and cones were in place, but the driver drove through the barricade hitting three workers. Kaitlyn Anderson and James Brooks, both MoDOT employees died in the crash, the other worker was injured.
“The system fails when your eyes are buried in the lights on your phone screen,” McKenna said. “You miss the lights, you don’t move over, your barrel through a crash scene or work zone at 60 or 70 miles-per-hour. How does that story end?”
According to AAA, about 24 emergency responders, including tow truck drivers, are killed every year in the U.S.
“Pretend like your mother is out there,” tow truck driver for St. Louis Towing Rob David said. “Would you want her to be stuck there? It’s a very scary situation.”
David specializes in battery service. During a press conference Friday with AAA, Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) and MoDOT, he said he’s had too many close calls.
“I mean I’ve been hit by a car going by me with the side mirrors because they are not paying attention, they are not slowing down,” David said.
Anthony Edwards works alongside of David. Edwards is a tow supervisor, asking drivers to be responsible while on the road.
“I’ve been roadside for about seven years, different positions, and it’s scary out there on the side of the road,” Edwards said. “You’ve got cars passing by you 80, 70 miles-an-hour. It’s simple. Simple to slow down and move over so everybody can get home safe.”
Last year, MSHP said it wrote nearly 300 tickets and 600 warnings who did not obey the “Move Over” law, which can result in a year in jail or a $2,000 fine.
“We would like to return home to our families as well,” MoDOT emergency response operator Floyd Bessard said. “It’s just a simple request, you see us working, you see those lights, you see the state patrol, police, tow truck operators, you see lights going, please move over.”
MSHP said distracted driving was the cause for 87 deadly crashes, 4,329 injury crashes, and 11,229 property damage crashes in 2020.
AAA says all 50 states have a similar law in place.