State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan today reminded motorists to "steer clear" of police, emergency responders, road crews and tow-truck operators while they carry out their duties.
"When you see law enforcement personnel stopped to write citations or responding to crashes and disabled vehicles, please make sure you proceed with caution and pass on the left,'' Noonan said. "It could be a matter of life or death for the first responder.''
In August, a state police trooper was injured when a motor home struck the rear of his patrol car on the shoulder of Interstate 78 in Lebanon County. Another state trooper was hurt when he was struck by an SUV while issuing a citation to a motorist along Interstate 81 in Dauphin County.
Noonan reminded drivers that Pennsylvania's Steer Clear Law requires motorists to move to a lane that is not immediately adjacent to an emergency response area. Such areas include locations where police are making traffic stops, where highway or construction workers are involved in emergency assistance, or where tow trucks are responding to disabled vehicles.
If drivers cannot move over because of traffic or other conditions, they must proceed at a speed that is "reasonable and prudent," according to the law.
"I urge drivers to be watchful for flashing lights, flares in the road and personnel who may be in or next to roadways helping with emergencies," PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch said. "Moving over or slowing down when you pass these scenes helps ensure our workers, police and other responders can focus on saving lives instead of being afraid for their own."
The law applies any time an emergency vehicle has its lights flashing and where road crews or emergency personnel have lighted flares or have posted signs or other traffic control devices.
Failure to move over or slow down can result in a summary offense that carries a fine of up to $250. In addition, fines will be doubled for other traffic violations occurring in these areas. If the violation leads to a first responder being injured, a 90-day license suspension could result.
"Our goal is not to write citations, but make sure our personnel are safe," Noonan said.