Every year, workers along the sides of roads are injured or killed when a car crashes into the crew’s site, even though it’s marked with bright cones and warning signs.
There’s an easy way to reduce those incidents that harm police officers and other first responders, road construction workers, and utility crews. Ohio’s Move Over law was passed in 1999 to reduce risk to law enforcement officers and other emergency responders. In 2013, the law was expanded to include every stationary vehicle with flashing lights, including tow trucks and utility vehicles.
There are slight differences in each state’s Move Over laws, but not so much that you can’t figure out the right thing to do, even if you’re traveling from state to state. Here are the basic requirements:
• When you approach a work zone, change lanes if there’s more than one lane on your side of road so
that there is an empty lane between your vehicle and the roadside crew.
• If it’s not possible or safe to change lanes, slow down.
• Drivers must obey all traffic directions posted as part of the worksite.
• Keep control of your car, which means paying attention and responding to weather conditions —heavy rain or a slick road might mean you need to slow down even more. And no texting, fiddling with the radio, or other distractions.
• Penalties for violating those requirements in Ohio range from $300 to $1,000 or loss of your driver’s license.
If you plan to travel and want to know the specifics of Move Over laws outside of Ohio, a list summarizing each state’s law can be found on the AAA website at drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/move-over-law.
Electric utility crews are special cases to watch out for. A study of utility worksite accidents found that the relatively temporary nature of power line repairs could surprise motorists. A roadside construction operation might close a lane for days or weeks, giving time for people familiar with the area to anticipate the changed traffic pattern. Utility work, however, can start and finish in a few hours, possibly raising risks with drivers who might think they know the road ahead.
Another risk to watch for is when worksites are being put up or taken down. Roadside accidents can happen as crews are setting up signs and traffic cones.
Don’t drive distracted. Drive according to the conditions of the road. Be courteous to roadside work crews. Watch the signs and obey them. And certainly, follow laws like Move Over. It’s good advice that could save a life.