Motorists must soon move over for safety

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Area law enforcement officers are about to start cracking downon drivers who don’t yield the right-of-way to authorized emergencyvehicles under a state law revision taking effect July 1.

Senate Bill 2057 was passed during the 2007 regular session ofthe Mississippi Legislature.

The bill amends section 63-3-809 of the Mississippi Code of 1972and requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergencyvehicle or a highway maintenance vehicle that is parked on theroadside. The law has always required motorists to yieldright-of-way to moving emergency vehicles that are responding to anincident.

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Now, according to Senate Bill 2057, if a driver is passing anemergency vehicle that is stationary on the side of the road, thedriver is to yield the right-of-way by changing lanes to allow theemergency vehicle at least one lane’s berth if possible.

Mississippi Highway Patrol Public Affairs Officer Rusty Boydsaid the MHP will begin enforcing the amendment on July 1.

Boyd said this law is especially important for the safety andwell-being of officers and workers involved. He said the area’stroopers are not unfamiliar with the dangers of drivers who do notyield.

“In our district we had one trooper struck several years ago onthe side of Highway 84,” said Boyd. “He was severely injured andoff work for almost a year due to his injuries.

“Plus, it’s a tense situation when you’re standing on the sideof the highway and cars are coming by possibly at 70 miles an hourjust a few feet away from you,” he said.

The law also says if a lane change is impossible due to road ortraffic conditions, the vehicle must slow down and be prepared tostop if needed in order to prevent collisions.

According to the new law, drivers in violation may be fined upto $250 if they simply fail to comply and up to $1,000 if there isdamage to the official vehicle or bodily injury to any driver orpassenger of an official vehicle.

Boyd said the Highway Patrol will probably have a short graceperiod as drivers are made aware of the law.

“The law didn’t include any education as we did with seat belts.We kind of eased into that,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll ease intothis and use good judgment. It will take some time before peopleget used to it. Signs will eventually be posted informing thepublic of the law.”

The law does not only apply to law enforcement vehicles.

“It includes law enforcement, ambulances and fire trucks, but italso includes any vehicle contracted or owned by the MississippiDepartment of Transportation,” Boyd said.

Boyd said not only are maintenance workers protected, butrecovery vehicles and tow trucks are as well.

“The law says move to the lane not adjacent to the vehicle,”said Boyd. “We may be on the median side, which would mean youwould merge right. You just need to be in the lane away fromus.”