‘It’s the law’: Drivers should slow down, switch to protect people along the road

The death of an AAA employee providing roadside assistance in Bowie, Maryland, Tuesday night, was a stark reminder for people to be aware of and respect the “relocation laws.”

The death of an AAA employee providing roadside assistance in Bowie, Maryland, Tuesday night, was a stark reminder for people to be aware of and respect the “relocation laws.”

These laws require motorists to slow down and move into lanes further away from emergency vehicles on the road if they can do so safely.

Anthony Okozi, 69, had his vehicle’s hazard lights on and was wearing a reflective vest when he was fatally struck by a passing vehicle

“The laws apply in all 50 states and DC, as far as law enforcement, fire, and EMS. Outside of those emergency vehicles, you have the differences by state, as far as those vehicles are covered by that particular law,” said John Marshall, director of safety programs at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“It’s a shame we need a law for situations like this; everyone should drive in such a way that they look out for each other. And if you see a vehicle in front of you pull up on the side of the road, whether it’s a first responder or just an unlucky driver, we all need to practice slowing down and running over,” Marshall said.

On multi-lane highways, Marshall recommends that even motorists in lanes furthest from the potential hazard have increased awareness about vehicles that could transfer in their direction. The cascading impact of accidents on vehicle numbers can be far-reaching.

“If everyone pays attention and everyone is aware of their environment and reacts accordingly… everyone can do their part to make it safer, not just for the people on the side of the road, not just the first responders, but the people too.” who may have been in the vehicle stopped at the side of the road and in front of other drivers,” Marshall said. “Imagine this is your family and what you would like people to do; you would like them to slow down. You would want them to move; you wish they were careful.”

“Move” laws into DCVirginia and Maryland vary by jurisdiction.

In October, Maryland law will be changed to require all drivers to change at the side of the road, which Marshall calls “a good thing.”

A poll from 2019 on the safety of first responders conducted by the National Safety Council found that 67% of people were aware of the law — meaning one in three were unaware.

“So we are making an impact in terms of raising awareness of the laws. Now if only we could get people to obey them,” Marshall said. “And really, the messages about the ‘move-over’ laws are — it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the law.”

Marshall’s quick tips for drivers before getting behind the wheel:

  • Brace yourself.
  • Avoid distractions.
  • Do not drive disabled.
  • Obey the speed limit and other traffic rules.
  • Drive as if your life and that of others on the road depended on it, because they all do.

“You have to remember that every time you get behind the wheel it is something very serious that you are doing, and you have to be safe. You have to be focused on the task at hand.”

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