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Move Over Law fines start today

A new state law takes effect today to better protect first responders who provide roadside assistance.

The Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on Monday hosted an event to kick off National Work Zone Awareness Week and to discuss the Move Over Law.

Surrounded by first-responder vehicles and equipment, Lt. Colonel Scott Price, deputy commissioner of operations for the Pennsylvania State Police, said, “Last

year, 55 state police vehicles were struck at traffic stops, disabled motorists, or crash scenes. The goal of the Move Over Law is to prevent these dangerous situations.”

Pennsylvania’s Move Over Law requires drivers to change lanes when approaching an emergency response area. Updates to the law, which include a new point system for violators and sets a fine of $500 for first-time offenders, $1,000 for a second offense, and $2,000 plus 90-day license suspension for a third or subsequent offense.

The revamped Move Over Law also mandates drivers change lanes or slow down when approaching disabled vehicles when at least two emergency displays, such as vehicle hazard lamps, road flares, and/or cones or caution signs are present.

Work zone dangers

Todd Deem, a tow truck operator with DAT Emergency Services LLC, in New Ringgold, said both he and his father have been hit by vehicles while providing roadside assistance.

“About four years ago, I was hit on Route 309 on the Blue Mountain by a vehicle,” Deem said. “And in January of this year, I was hit again on Interstate 80, and about a month-and-a-half ago, my father was hit on Interstate 78 in Lehigh County.”

Of those, Deem said the most severe incident was the one four years ago. The incidents this year have involved tractor-trailers.

“People need to pay attention and watch for either highway workers or police or fire or tow truck drivers,” he said. “Slow down and move over. You can’t always move over, but you can always slow down.”

According to PennDOT, in 2020 there were 1,412 work zone crashes, resulting in 15 fatalities. Since 1970, PennDOT has lost 89 workers in the line of duty. The PA Turnpike has lost 45 workers since 1940.

In an effort to change unsafe driving behaviors in work zones, Pennsylvania implemented the Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement program in March 2020. Pennsylvania’s AWZSE program uses vehicle-mounted systems to record motorists exceeding posted work zone speed limits by 11 mph or more using electronic speed timing devices. AWZSE systems are operational in active work zones where workers are present.

Results included in the AWZSE Annual Legislative Report, released Monday online at workzonecameras.PennDOT.gov, show that the program is meeting its goals of reducing work zone speeds, changing driver behavior, and improving work zone safety for both workers and motorists.

Work zone speeds trended downward throughout AWZSE enforced work zones.

Data shows a 16.6% reduction in vehicles traveling over the posted work zone speed limit and a 43.6% reduction in the percentage of vehicles excessively speeding (11 mph or more over the posted work zone speed limit).

Additionally, overall work zone crashes in Pennsylvania work zones were down 19% in 2020.

“Construction season too often means hazards for the men and women who are delivering improved roads and bridges,” said PennDOT Acting Executive Deputy Secretary Melissa Batula. “Work zones may be a temporary inconvenience, but these workers all deserve to get home safely. Please slow down and never drive distracted, especially in work zones where roadway conditions can change every day.”

On the road again

After limited travel during the pandemic, 93 percent of American drivers are now returning to the roadway and 62 percent plan to travel by car this summer for vacations, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

“As drivers return to the road after months of limited travel, we are seeing an increase in the severity of roadway incidents impacting our road crews,” said Craig Shuey, PA Turnpike Chief Operating Officer.

Deem added, “All of us that work on the side of the road have a family they have to go home to, and I’m sure they’d want the same.”