More than 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed since 1999 after being struck by vehicles along America's highways, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. To combat that problem, the State Highway Patrol is reminding motorists across the state to be vigilant of all emergency vehicles on the sides of highways and interstates.
To date, 43 states have enacted Move Over laws in the hopes of preventing needless deaths and injuries along the nation’s highways.
North Carolina is not immune to these deaths and injuries. Since the Patrol’s inception, two troopers have been struck and killed while countless others have been injured while conducting traffic stops. Just recently, Trooper Matthew Mitchell, stationed in Madison County was struck during a traffic stop on US19. Trooper Mitchell had exited his vehicle and was speaking to the driver when a passenger car struck him, knocking him several feet. As a result, Trooper Mitchell sustained critical injuries. He has since made immense improvements but the road to recovery is on-going.
In 2002, North Carolina implemented the Move Over law, however many motorists are not familiar with its existence. According to a national poll by Mason Dixon Polling & Research, sponsored by the National Safety Commission:
• 71 percent of Americans have not heard of “Move Over” laws
• 86 percent support enacting “Move Over” laws in all 50 states; and
• 90 percent believe traffic stops and roadside emergencies are dangerous for law enforcement and first responders.
North Carolina state law requires motorists slow down and approach cautiously when an emergency vehicle is stopped on the shoulder of the roadway with its lights flashing. Motorists are required to move over to another lane away from the emergency vehicle on a multi-lane highway or slow down on a two lane highway and can do so safely. Motorists must slow down while maintaining a safe speed.
On Oct. 1, 2012, the law was expanded to include utility vehicles that are on the side of the road performing their duties. The utility vehicles are required to have a flashing amber-colored light. Failure to comply with the move over law will result in a mandatory fine of $250.00 plus court costs.