ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Instead of moving over a lane, a driver travels only a few inches past West Penn Police Chief Brian Johnson as he pulls over a driver for speeding along SR309 in South Tamaqua.
Do you slow down or move over a lane when you pass a police officer, accident scene or emergency vehicle alongside the road? If not, then you are breaking the law.
Local police departments are now enforcing the Steer Clear Law.
The 'Steer Clear' law requires drivers to move over or slow down when they encounter an emergency scene, traffic stop or disabled vehicle.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Website (ODMP.org), since 1980, 305 police officers in the United States have been killed in the line of duty after being struck by vehicles.
"Not only is it the law, it is common courtesy," said Brian Johnson, police chief, West Penn Township. "It is a shame that a law has to be made to force people to use common sense."
If you come upon an incident along the side of the road that involves an emergency responder, please remember to steer clear. Under Pennsylvania's Steer Clear Law, motorists are required to move at least one lane away from the incidents. Emergency responders can include law enforcement, tow truck operators and other emergency personnel. The law applies any time an emergency vehicle has its lights flashing and where road crews or emergency personnel have lighted flares, posted signs or tried to warn motorists.
If you cannot move over because of traffic or other conditions, you must reduce your speed. Failure to move over or slow down will not only result in a citation that carries a fine of up to $250, but drivers cited for traffic violations in these situations will face double fines. If that violation leads to a worker being injured, a 90-day license suspension or jail time could result.
If law enforcement is not present at the time, the law allows road workers and emergency responders to report violations by motorists. Citations can then be issued by police based on these reports.
More information about the Steer Clear Law can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation web site (http://www.dot.state.pa.us/) and state police website (http://www.psp.state.pa.us/)
"This law will help prevent injuries and save lives, but only if drivers follow the law and use common sense," said Sergeant Duane Fredericks, Rush Township Police Department.