New Speaking Points About Slow Down-Move Over and Roadside Safety

By now, you are familiar with“Move Over” laws, designed to prevent collisions between approaching drivers and emergency workers performing their duties at the roadside, such as law enforcement, EMS and emergency road service providers.  Generally requiring approaching drivers to change lanes away from the emergency vehicle and/or reduce speed significantly, these laws go a long way toward preventing vehicle-pedestrian collisions.

Fortunately, research into these types of collisions is ongoing, and yields useful information for application in driving safety programs.  In fact, several potentially useful aspects were revealed in a recent study by the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, specifically focusing on tow truck operators.  Here are some highlights that you might find useful to share with your driving safety students:

First, the odds of an emergency responder being killed if a collision occurs is quite high.  The researchers found that when struck by a vehicle moving at highway speeds, the odds of a professional pedestrian being killed were 85%.  A Takeaway: This is a potentially mortal traffic safety issue that every driver should take very seriously.

Second, the researchers found that environmental factors can play a significant role.  The chances of a collision were higher when visibility was low, and when there was a lack of visible warnings displayed by the tow truck operator (e.g. traffic cones, reflective triangles).  A Takeaway: Approaching drivers would be wise to slow down and/or move over at the earliest point they detect even a potential vehicle stopped along the roadside.

Lastly, these types of collisions often involve an approaching driver crossing over the line into the professional pedestrian’s work area.  Some drivers might focus their attention exclusively on the stopped vehicle, and may unintentionally steer toward the vehicle.  Other drivers may be distracted, and not perceive the stopped vehicle at all, and drift right into the work area.  As a result, the approaching driver would likely be found to be at-fault in many of these types of crashes.  A Takeaway: This speaks to the need for all approaching drivers to perceive any such roadside situation as early as possible, and take action to reduce the risk for everyone involved.

It is research studies like this that incrementally enhance the traffic safety field’s ability to better prepare drivers and help prevent collisions.  We encourage you to integrate these findings into your classroom discussions with students, and we look forward to your input on how it goes!

Study: Chandler & Bunn (2019). Motor vehicle towing: An analysis of injuries in a high-risk yet understudied industry. Journal of Safety Research 71.

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