Have you ever stood on the side of a busy road or highway? It can be a bit intimidating as traffic roars by; you can feel the wind of speeding cars and trucks and the sting from dust and pebbles thrown as they fly past. Now imagine that you are a first responder, law enforcement officer or maintenance worker trying to do a job, often just off of or in busy lanes of traffic.
Every day the people who protect us put their safety and lives on the line when they get out of their vehicles to help a stranded motorist, block a lane of traffic, clear up debris or provide first aid to someone hurt in a crash. This should be a reminder that we all need to be more careful as we drive along the byways and highways on our daily commutes or while on a special trip. Over the next hill or around the next curve could be an unexpected situation with a first responder or law enforcement officer who might be in a vulnerable situation while trying to help others.
Just such a situation recently turned deadly for 33 year old Colorado State Trooper Jamie Jursevics who was hit and killed while assisting people involved in a crash off I-25. Another driver, who has been charged with driving while intoxicated and vehicular manslaughter, slammed into Trooper Jursevics. She died at the scene leaving behind a husband and an eight month old daughter.
The pain that Jursevics’ family is enduring is felt by hundreds of others every year. The National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund reports that between 2005 and 2014, 134 officers died after being struck by a vehicle. In addition, hundreds of highway construction and maintenance workers were also struck and killed while on the job.
We all owe the men and women who keep our roads safe our undivided attention. This means not being distracted by cell phones or other electronic devices, never driving while overly tired or after consuming alcohol or taking certain prescription drugs, and slowing down when we see emergency vehicle lights either in traffic or off to the side of the road. It’s hard to imagine the horror of being distracted and causing injuries or death.
That’s why all 50 states now have Move Over laws on the books, to try and protect the men and women who protect us. Move Over laws require motorists to slow down, change lanes or move over as far as possible when approaching an emergency vehicle. More of us need to be informed about those laws, though; with surveys showing that 71 percent of Americans still have not heard of Move Over laws.
The American Safety Council reminds us to be extra vigilant when we see an emergency vehicle and to:
- Pull as far to the right as possible to let them pass
- Stay at least 500 feet behind them
- Move as far over as possible when nearing a stopped emergency vehicle with lights activated and slow to a speed not more than 20 miles less than the posted speed limit
The men and women who swear to serve and protect us, as well as ambulance drivers, tow truck operators and construction workers deserve all the extra safety we can give them.