Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

June 22, 2014

‘Move Over:’ Hit-and-run underscores importance

— — Troopers across the nation, and right here in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia, are using the month of June to increase public awareness of a law requiring drivers to either move over a lane or, when unable to, to cautiously pass all emergency personnel stopped on the side of a road. The law, which has been in the books for several years now in Virginia and West Virginia, also applies to emergency response vehicles, highway maintenance vehicles and tow trucks equipped with flashing amber lights.

Unfortunately, there are some motorists who are still either unaware of the law, or choosing to ignore it. Just this past Thursday, Trooper First Class D. R. White, of the West Virginia State Police Parkways Authority, parked his cruiser on the shoulder of Interstate 77 north in Mercer County at the 15.5 mile marker near Athens to remove debris near the middle of the roadway, according to Lt. Michael Baylous, a public information officer for the West Virginia State Police. Baylous said White’s cruiser bar light — complete with directional blue and red lighting to alert motorists to move left — was activated at the time.  On his way back to the cruiser, White was struck by a vehicle. The driver of the vehicle fled the scene. Police are investigating the incident as an active hit-and-run.

That’s why the decision to designate June as national “Move Over Awareness Month” is both necessary and welcomed.

In Virginia, the recognition is a result of the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 102 during the 2014 Virginia General Assembly session. The declaration is intended to provide further support to Virginia’s public safety campaign aimed at increasing drivers’ awareness concerning the protection of public safety professionals and highway safety workers, and to include safety service patrols on Virginia’s roads.

All motorists should obey the law, slow down and move over when approaching emergency response vehicles, law enforcement vehicles, highway maintenance vehicles and tow trucks equipped with flashing amber lights.

 “As we continue to push forward with the Drive 2 Save Lives campaign, a key element to reducing traffic fatalities is also reducing the number of public safety professionals and highway workers injured or killed on the job,” Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. W. Steve Flahert said last week. “Protect them by moving over.”

In addition to last week’s hit-and-run accident on I-77 in Mercer County, two state troopers, with the New York State Police and Missouri Highway Patrol, were struck recently while on patrol, according to Virginia State Police. The Missouri Highway Patrol trooper did survive his injuries.

And many will remember that in 2012, the late Trooper Andrew Fox, a native of Tazewell County, was killed when a distracted driver ran over him at the Virginia State Fair.

Across the nation, traffic-related fatalities are the leading cause of law enforcement line-of-duty deaths, according to the Virginia State Police. Of the 46 officers killed due to a traffic-related fatality, 11 were struck and killed outside their vehicles, according to preliminary state police data.

We encourage all motorists in both Virginias to take proper note of the “Move Over Awareness Month” campaign, and to obey the law. It’s a simple matter of either moving over a lane or, when unable to, just cautiously passing all emergency personnel stopped on the side of the road.

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