Chief’s Message April 14, 2010
Do you know about Idaho's Move Over Law?
Officers face many dangers as they work to keep the public safe, but the greatest danger comes not as they face armed criminals, engage in pursuits, or perform harrowing rescues. Statistically, officers are at the greatest danger when they do something they do routinely every day - make a traffic stop.
FBI statistics show traffic crashes currently claim the lives of more police officers than any other cause of death in the line of duty. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) 2005 Fallen Heroes Report shows this is the second consecutive year in which traffic-related crashes either equaled or exceeded gunfire as the leading cause of officer deaths. Latest data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund report shows, of the 155 officers killed in the line of duty in 2005, sixty-three local, state, and federal officers died in traffic-related incidents. Sixteen of those officers were struck and killed by passing vehicles while they worked outside their patrol cars.
From across the country, incident reports show emergency vehicles of all types have been struck while parked beside a highway, even while their emergency lights were flashing. As a result of this troubling trend, the NLEOMF report calls for “a driving public that is more attentive to officer safety when approaching accident scenes and traffic stops.”
House Bill 560 which passed the Idaho legislature added a new Idaho Code - 49-624 which is aimed at addressing the problem. Known by some as the "Move Over Law," the law requires motorists to either move over a lane or at least slow down when approaching a stationary police or emergency services vehicle.
“Anyone who works alongside our highways is vulnerable, but police especially are in constant danger,” said Idaho State Police Director, Colonel Dan Charboneau. "That’s why Idaho's Move-Over Law was created…” said Charboneau, “…to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities to police officers, paramedics, firefighters, tow truck operators and highway maintenance workers.”
“The Move-Over Law was passed to keep motorists from running over us,” said ISP Region 3 Commander, Captain Steve Richardson. “It can be nerve racking,” he said. “Sometimes the trucks and cars are so close you can feel the wind from their side view mirrors blow across the back of your neck. Our in-car video systems have captured several close-calls where officers were almost clipped by passing vehicles."
Motorists slowing to have a look at a traffic stop or crash (aka "rubber-necking") is also a major problem. According to information distributed by the Department of Transportation, 30 percent of all crashes occur as the result of another crash. "It's not unusual at all for our troopers to see a crash, often a rear-end collision, while they are already working a crash or making a traffic stop because someone is looking at what's going on rather than watching the road ahead," said Richardson.
Another Idaho motor vehicle law is the Fender-Bender Law. It requires people involved in minor accidents to move their cars to the shoulder if there are no injuries. This law is also designed to help prevent additional wrecks and also to maintain traffic flow. Every minute a freeway lane is closed requires four minutes for traffic to resume normal flow. Motorists will not be penalized by their insurance companies or by law enforcement officers for moving their cars in these minor collisions.
Source: Idaho State Police