THE MOVE OVER LAW
When drivers are approaching an emergency or work vehicle, they must move over at least one lane to create a buffer. If traffic prevents the driver from changing lanes, the driver must slow down. If emergency vehicles are trying to pass traffic to respond to a call, drivers must move to the right side of the road to clear a path. Penalties for violating the law include a fine of $100 to $500 and/or up to 30 days in jail.
Nearly 10 years ago, state legislators passed a law requiring motorists to move over for emergency vehicles, making Tennessee the 30th state in the nation to enact such a law.
Last year, the state became the first in the country to expand that law to include utility service vehicles.
"We try to always put out adequate traffic control, but we have had cases where cars run through the signs," said Wendell Boring, assistant vice president of EPB. "We've actually started using some local flagging companies to further protect our workers and slow the traffic down. Speed is the biggest issue because it gets hard for people to react."
No EPB workers or local law enforcement officers have been injured or killed in recent years, but earlier this year, a Comcast worker was struck and seriously injured while working, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond said.
However, statewide more than 100 people, including utility workers, wrecker operators, construction workers and law enforcement officers are killed each year, said Hammond, who held a news conference Thursday to raise awareness of the issue.
Deputies will make a concerted effort to catch violators, the sheriff said.
"We did [write citations] before, but this is a chance to make sure the public understands what we're talking about," Hammond said.
Last week, the Chattanooga Police Department conducted a saturation using decoy traffic stops to nab drivers violating the Move Over law. Out of 193 citations issued, 67 were for Move Over violations, records show.
"If the party hits the brakes, you can see the front of the car dip. You can see the speed reduce when they're running radar backwards and see the speed slow down," Chattanooga Police Capt. David Roddy said.
Most people adhere to the law and move over, he said. Violators, he said, most often give "ignorance of the law" as their reason.
"It's not like speeding or running a red light where everyone knows it's against the law. It's a behavior," Roddy said. "A lot of people come across as not knowing they had to do that. With enforcement comes education. The citations come out. The awareness gets out."
Even when people are unable to move over to the left because of traffic, he said, motorists can slow down. The difference between traveling 55 mph and 75 mph is 292 feet per second - that's almost an entire football field per second. Drivers traveling at higher speeds simply have less time to react, he said.
"We try to slow everyone down," he said.