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Hundreds in Connecticut Cited Under 'Move Over' law; Emergency Responders Call for Improved Road Safety

From Feb. 22 to March 4, state troopers issued 479 tickets statewide to drivers accused of violating Connecticut’s 'Move Over' law.

(TNS) - Flashing red, blue and yellow lights are a familiar sight on the highways around Connecticut, but a new campaign shows drivers aren’t giving emergency responders enough room to safely do their jobs.

From Feb. 22 to March 4, state troopers issued 479 tickets statewide to drivers accused of violating Connecticut’s “Move Over” law, according to state police spokeswoman Trooper First Class Kelly Grant.

That figure includes dozens of infractions issued by Troop G, along with some written and verbal warnings. Troop G patrols lower Fairfield County and all of Interstate 95 through Branford.

The state police enforcement aimed to remind drivers they must slow down and move over one lane if they see emergency vehicles and tow trucks stopped on the shoulder of a highway with their lights flashing. Fines for breaking the law start at $181.

“We want people to understand that this is a very real thing,” Grant said. “This actually does happen. We actually do get hit.”

New Haven emergency responders and tow truck drivers also say people often don’t move over, which puts their people at risk of being hit and injured. And while state law only requires people to move over one lane on highways, crews say they’d like drivers to give them more room on city streets as well.

“It’s a real problem,” New Haven Fire Operations Chief Matthew Marcarelli said. “It’s a problem in the city and it’s a problem on the highway.”

Marcarelli said the Fire Department has such a problem with people not moving over that the department has made changes in the past year to the way it responds to crashes on Interstates 91 and 95 and Route 15.

Now, when firefighters go to a scene on any of those highways, an extra fire truck is sent out to act as a blocker and protect emergency workers from drivers who fail to move over.

“It’s definitely altered our practices,” Marcarelli said. “That’s how much of a concern it is for us.”

Marcarelli recalled one incident in which a fire truck was hit on Interstate 91. The driver in that case was distracted, which Marcarelli and Grant both said is a frequent problem.

Marcarelli said some people are looking at handheld devices and radios instead of the road and others have their music blasting so loud they can’t hear fire truck sirens warning them to move out of the way.

“(Civilian drivers) just, in large part, are not paying attention,” he said. “They roll up on an accident and had the apparatus not been up there, our personnel could’ve very easily been hit.”

Marcarelli said the department has also changed the appearance of trucks to better protect firefigthers. Newer trucks now have a red and gold chevron on the back that is designed to increase visibility and catch drivers’ attention.

The Move Over law covers only highways with two or more lanes in the same direction. However, Marcarelli said firefighters would like to see it somehow extended to city streets because people don’t give firefighters enough room there, either.

Firefighter Scott Dillon was hit by a car Feb. 25 as crews cleaned up from a house fire on James Street. The driver had tried to maneuver around Dillon’s truck, which had its red lights flashing.

The driver was cited for driving through a stop sign. Dillon suffered a leg injury and Marcarelli said last week that Dillon was still off from work recovering.

“The reality is, if the lights are on and you see that bright red chevron, there are people working back there,” he said. “It’s a work zone just like it is on the highway.”

New Haven police spokesman Officer David Hartman said enforcing the Move Over law on city streets is tough because there is rarely anywhere for drivers to move.

“We appreciate that people do so if they can but are generally satisfied that folks slow down,” he said. “We do, however, enforce such laws when we can.”

Even if people remember to move over for fire trucks and troopers, they might forget the law also includes tow trucks.

Raven Dotson, the manager at York Towing in New Haven, said there have been times when he’s had to jump out of the way of passing vehicles on the highway.

“There’s very limited space to work anyways and then you got cars flying by you,” he said. “They don’t pay attention or anything. They see the blue lights and the red lights and they think they can whip right by us.”

Grant said the recent campaign was started at the suggestion of a trooper who saw it was a problem. The state Department of Transportation has been running messages about the law on its digital highway signs. A few local police and fire departments have also been putting out the word.

“It’s an emergency responder campaign,” Grant said. “It’s for everybody. We want people to pick it up and pass it on and remind each other. We encourage people to talk about it and pass it on to your friends and family and make sure everyone knows.”

The enforcement campaign comes just before the start of the spring construction season. In addition to crashes, disabled vehicles and traffic violators, troopers will also be out with construction crews to warn drivers they need to allow space. Fines double in construction zones, meaning someone who fails to move over there could be fined $362 or more.

Grant said troopers have been watching for Move Over violations when responding to crashes or disabled vehicles, or when they are out on other traffic stops. The troopers work in pairs, with one car working the incident and another watching the passing traffic.

In some cases, all lanes are full and drivers can’t move over, and Grant said troopers understand that. However, drivers are still required to slow down as they pass the scene. If there is a lane open and someone doesn’t move over, troopers will stop them for that.

Connecticut passed its Move Over law in 2009 and was one of the last states in the U.S. to do so. Grant said part of the campaign has been about informing people the law exists, as evidenced by the written and verbal warnings some drivers received.

Tickets aren’t the only way the state police have been sending the message to move over. The agency has also made several posts on its Twitter and Facebook pages. Those have included reminder graphics, photos of patrol cars hit by drivers who didn’t move over, and photos and stories of troopers who died because someone didn’t move over.

Among those killed were Auxiliary Troopers Edward Truelove and Phillip Mingione.

Truelove died Nov. 13, 1992, after a truck crashed into the back of his cruiser as he shielded a disabled motorist in the truck-climbing lane of Interstate 84 in Cheshire.

Mingione, who lived in Milford, was killed May 25, 1994, when a driver hit him as he stood outside his vehicle on Interstate 91 in North Haven.

“It saves lives,” Grant said of the Move Over law. “We’ve had troopers and auxiliary troopers, and firefighters and paramedics who were hit and injured or killed. Obviously, we don’t want to see any more.”


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