When we think of the dangers facing police officers, most of us think of violent or deadly confrontations with criminal suspects. However, car accidents present the highest risk of injury or death to police officers.
In a recent incident, a Jacksonville police officer who was sitting in his car preparing an accident report was injured when his patrol vehicle was hit from behind on Interstate 295 between New Kings Road and Dunn Avenue.
The patrol car was hit while it was out of the lanes of traffic in the right emergency lane. The driver apparently lost control and crashed into the rear of the patrol car as the officer was on a call for a single car crash with injuries. The vehicle that hit the patrol car bounced into the left barrier wall and ended up in the center of the interstate.
The police officer was taken to the Shands – UF Jacksonville hospital for treatment of his personal injuries. The driver that struck the patrol car suffered minor injuries and was treated at the accident scene. Police are investigating whether there were any other factors that caused this accident.
Police officers and other emergency workers face daily dangers on the roads of Florida. That’s why the state enacted a “Move Over” law that is intended to protect first responders such as police, fire and ambulance crews
The “Move Over” law requires drivers to change lanes if possible to provide additional space between the officer and traffic. For single lane roadways or in circumstances where changing lanes is not possible, drivers must reduce their speed to 20 miles-per-hour below the speed limit. If you are on a road where the speed limit is 20 mph or less, you are required to slow down to 5 mph.
The “Move Over” law was enacted to protect law enforcement and emergency workers from being hit by vehicles passing them at high speed. Drivers who are not in the lane closest to the stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights should be prepared to allow other drivers to move over. We often think of laws like this as applying only to police officers or ambulance and fire officers, but it also applies to tow trucks with yellow flashing lights or other vehicles that may be stopped at the side of the road such as sanitation trucks.
If you fail to move over in compliance with the law, you are subject to being issued a ticket. You may receive 3 points on your license, and have to pay a fine. More importantly you will be putting the lives of emergency workers in danger and could be sued for injuries or fatalities that your actions cause.
Florida’s “Move Over” law at a Glance
When Driving on Multi-Lane Roads:
- Drivers must move from the lane closest to the stationary emergency vehicle, tow truck, sanitation, or utility vehicle.
- Drivers are required to slow down to a speed of 20 mph below the posted speed limit if they cannot move over safely.
- Drivers who are not in the lane closest to the stationary vehicle should be prepared to allow those who are to move over into their lane
On Roadways with Only One Lane in Each Direction:
- Drivers must slow down to a speed of 20 mph below the posted speed limit.
- If the speed limit is 20 mph or less, drivers must travel at 5 mph
Written by David Macaulay