'Move over' for emergency crews in action

Thursday, July 29, 2004

If you've ever had a flat tire on Interstate 80, you know how frightening it can be. Struggling with your car jack and spare tire is tough enough without cars and 18-wheelers whizzing by at 75 mph or more, only inches away.

Now imagine that working alongside a busy highway is part of your job, perhaps a dozen times a day, more than 300 days a year.

If you have a good imagination, you now may be ready to understand a new campaign by the Nebraska State Patrol.

Law enforcement officers and emergency personnel all take their lives into their hands when they get out of their vehicles along the road to talk to motorists or help those who have been in an accident.

The State Patrol kicked off a new multi-media campaign last week to educate the public to the need to "Move Over" for emergency vehicles.

"I believe the Nebraska State patrol can play a vital role in educating motorists on what they need to do when they approach a stopped emergency vehicle," said Col. Tom Nesbitt, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol. "it is the agency's hope that by providing written materials, billboards and Public Service Announcements that we can alert the driving public to this important safety issue."

The state patrol has a vested interest in the issue. Every year, for the past 10 years, a Nebraska State Patrol Trooper has been struck by a motor vehicle during a traffic stop. Several of those incidents resulted in serious injury to the officer.

According to Department of Justice statistics, 13 percent of officers killed in the line of duty are killed during traffic stops or pursuits. That figure does not take into account the greater number of emergency responders who experience near-hits every year, as they are brushed by speeding vehicles while carrying out their duties.

Most states, including Nebraska, currently have laws requiring motorists to pull to the right and slow down or stop when approached by an emergency vehicle.

But that may not be enough. The State Patrol's educational campaign is an effort to complement that existing legislation by making motorists aware of the need for safe driving procedures when they approach a parked emergency vehicle.

"We want everyone to remember, by slowing down and moving over, you could be saving the life of an emergency worker," Col.

Nesbiss said.

So, if you see an ambulance or fire truck approaching behind you, pull over, slow down and get out of the way. They could be on their way to save your friend, family or property. Slow down and give emergency personnel plenty of room if you are approaching an accident or emergency. Better yet, avoid the area altogether if possible. The same goes for approaching an officer who has someone pulled over on the side of the road.

With care, courtesy and consideration by the driving public emergency personnel will be able to concentrate on doing their jobs instead of watching out for their personal safety.

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