As if there weren’t enough electronic signs up warning of “Carmageddon,” more than 700 signs throughout California lit up with a new “Move Over” message to kick off a statewide campaign to increase safety for motorists, highway workers and law enforcement.
The message “Slow or Move Over for Workers: It’s the Law” will stay posted through July 22. Caltrans will also begin a new billboard campaign and issue a public service announcement to TV stations statewide reinforcing the Move Over message.
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In May and June, three Caltrans highway workers died on the job within 48 days – the most in such a short period of time. Since 1924 178 Caltrans workers have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The Move Over law on the books in California took effect in 2007, was amended in 2009.
Vehicle Code 21809. (a) A person driving a vehicle on a freeway approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is displaying emergency lights, a stationary tow truck that is displaying flashing amber warning lights, or a stationary marked Department of Transportation vehicle that is displaying flashing amber warning lights, shall approach with due caution and, before passing in a lane immediately adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck, or Department of Transportation vehicle, absent other direction by a peace officer, proceed to do one of the following:
(1) Make a lane change into an available lane not immediately adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck, or Department of Transportation vehicle, with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, if practicable and not prohibited by law.
(2) If the maneuver described in paragraph (1) would be unsafe or impracticable, slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing weather, road, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions.
(b) A violation of subdivision (a) is an infraction, punishable by a fine of not more than fifty dollars ($50).
(c) The requirements of subdivision (a) do not apply if the stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is displaying emergency lights, the stationary tow truck that is displaying flashing amber warning lights, or the stationary marked Department of Transportation vehicle that is displaying flashing amber warning lights is not adjacent to the freeway or is separated from the freeway by a protective physical barrier.
“Our goal is to do everything we can to keep our highways safe,” said Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Motorists must slow down, watch out for highway workers and safely move over a lane when they see flashing amber lights on Caltrans or other emergency vehicles.”
The joint safety effort by Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Office of Traffic Safety will educate the public on the importance of moving over a lane to protect highway workers and CHP officers.
“This traffic safety campaign isn’t about writing citations, it’s about providing a safer work environment for everyone who does business along the side of the highway,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “The only way to prevent tragedies from occurring on the side of the road is by giving emergency personnel, highway workers and the public adequate space.”
“Our collective goal is that motorists will become more attentive as they drive,” said DMV Director Groege Valverde. “With continued cooperative efforts such as the Move Over campaign, we can further improve highway safety.”
“When we see Caltrans, law enforcement, emergency medical services, tow trucks and other emergency or construction vehicles next to the roadway, they are there for one purpose – our safety,” said Christopher J. Murphy, Director for the California Office of Traffic Safety. “Let’s keep them and ourselves safe by giving them plenty of room to operate.”
To date, 45 other states have enacted similar laws requiring motorists to move over or slow down.