October 3, 2014

WBAL: Maryland Move Over Law Expands for Drivers

Beginning on Oct. 1, tow truck operators will be included in the Move Over Law’s expansion.

The law requires motorists to move into an open lane away from tow trucks attending to roadside emergencies, or to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe, just as it is required for motorists to do now when approaching police and other emergency vehicles stopped on the road side.

The initial legislation that passed in 2010 only applied to fire and police vehicles, however tow trucks are now included in the expanded law.

Local and state officials gathered Wednesday to talk on the expanded law, its impact and the need for public awareness.

“This legislation honors the memories of those who have lost their lives. It provides a safety net of protection for towers who serve us each and every day on Maryland’s highways,” said Sen. Nancy C. Jacobs said.

“If people slow down and move over, this law will save lives,” State Delegate James Malone Jr. said.

Malone served nearly 40 years as a firefighter in Baltimore County.

“The intent of the move over law is to provide an extra barrier of safety for police officers, fire fighters, emergency rescue personnel, and tow service operators working along Maryland roads. It is imperative that drivers stay alert for these types of situations and move away from them or slow down as they pass by the traffic stop or incident scene,” Maryland State Police Col. Marcus L. Brown said.

Brown said he’s received numerous calls as the head of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police and the state police, where he’s had to hear the unfortunate news that one of his officers or troopers had been killed or injured while doing their jobs on the side of the road.

Trooper Jacqueline Kline was one of those injured in the line of duty nearly a year ago. She was assisting another trooper on a traffic stop when she was struck and seriously injured. Kline, whose injuries were so severe that she has not yet been able to return to full duty, was also on hand Wednesday, speaking on the ordeal.

In addition to the dangers facing law enforcement on the roads, tow truck operators are also at risk as they service disabled motorists. Nationwide, from January 2000 until Dec. 31, 2005, approximately 130 tow operators in the U.S. were killed from tow-related incidents or accidents. Of those killed, many were involved in service activities on the highway, according to American Towman Magazine. In Maryland, in August 2011, 38 year-old, tow truck driver, James Schreiber was struck and killed in Anne Arundel County while assisting a disabled truck.

AAA has been a vocal advocate of move over legislation across the country.

“AAA Mid-Atlantic applauds the sponsors of this legislation, as well as the Maryland General Assembly for recognizing the importance of having tow truck drivers included in Maryland’s move over law,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Ragina Cooper-Averella said. “We supported the law to protect law enforcement officers and first responders in 2010 and believe that those same protections are also necessary to protect tow truck drivers. Unfortunately, we have seen numerous tragedies occur that are sobering reminders of the dangers that law enforcement officers and tow truck drivers encounter every day while doing their jobs.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic, with nearly one million members in Maryland, is the largest tower in the state, providing its members with approximately 213,000 tows on average per year.

Maryland State Police said violating the move over law can result $110 fine and one point. If the violation contributes to a traffic crash, the fine is $150 and three points. If the violation contributes to a traffic crash resulting in death or serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points.

“Public education continues to be essential, despite Maryland’s law being on the books for four years and numerous public awareness efforts by police and traffic safety advocates, many motorists continue to ignore or be unaware of the law,” Cooper-Averella said.

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.