A Column of News & Comment by Senator James L. Seward
Emergency workers, police, and highway crew members put themselves in harm’s way every time they respond to a roadside accident. Often times, these hardworking individuals are attending to life-threatening situations where time is of the essence. They work in tight spaces on roadside shoulders and they are focused on doing their job. These individuals need to know they are able to work safely, without constantly looking over their shoulders and worrying about speeding motorists.
That’s where New York’s Move Over Law comes into play.
New York’s Move Over law was first enacted in 2011 to protect New Yorkers working along roadways and has since been expanded to include a wide range of emergency and hazard vehicles. The Move Over Law pertains to both sides of the road – not just the shoulder on the right – and includes tow trucks, construction vehicles, highway maintenance vehicles, police vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances. The law now applies to vehicles with flashing blue, green, red, white, or amber lights, giving law enforcement more authority to penalize violators who jeopardize the safety of those working along highways.
New York State Police issued 13,059 Move Over violations in 2018. Violators can face two points on their driver licenses and a minimum $150 fine for the first offense.
Throughout the summer, State Police worked with NYSDOT on a joint initiative called “Operation Hard Hat,” which featured State Troopers dressed as highway workers to crack down on work zone violations and highlight the importance of safe driving through active construction and maintenance work zones. Troopers were on the lookout for motorists who violated the Move Over Law and issued hundreds of tickets for a variety of violations.
In the lead up to National Move Over Day (Saturday, October 19), I was afforded the privilege to take part in a press conference highlighting the importance of staying vigilant and driving safely when encountering emergency and hazard vehicles on our highways.
Officials from the New York State Thruway Authority, New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Police, and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee also took part in the press conference to raise awareness and urge drivers to obey this key law.
The event took place at the New York State Thruway’s Herkimer Maintenance Section in Herkimer County next to Ron Deming Memorial Garden. This site is quite meaningful because almost three years ago we tragically lost Ronald Deming of Little Falls, a Thruway Maintenance employee, who was killed while assisting in the recovery of a vehicle previously involved in a traffic accident. Ron was doing his job – helping others. Sadly, he became the victim.
Sally Deming, Ron’s wife, also took part in the awareness event. I have immense respect and admiration for Sally who has been an outspoken advocate for the Move Over Law. Sally is spreading an important safety message and keeping Ron’s memory alive by telling his story. It was my honor to speak with Sally and look over a memorial plaque at the garden honoring Ron.
You can read more about New York State’s Move Over Law and view a public safety announcement (PSA) featuring Sally Deming on the New York State Thruway Authority website athttps://www.thruway.ny.gov/travelers/safety/moveoverlaw.html. Along with the PSA, the Thruway Authority staffed a special exhibit at the New York State Fair featuring equipment damaged in work zone incidents on New York highways.
We can all do our part to make sure similar tragedies are not repeated on our roadways. When you see flashing lights on the side of the highway, slow down, and when safe, move over. That simple act behind the wheel can mean the difference between life and death and ensure that a husband or wife, a father or mother, will make it home safely to his or her family.