Motorists along Interstate 10 south of Chandler will soon see a new sign urging drivers to change lanes or slow down when passing police and emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road.
Arizona Department of Public Safety officials said Thursday the sign will be one of 22 posted statewide as part of an effort to increase awareness of Arizona’s “Move Over” law, passed in 2005 but rarely enforced until now. Under the law, drivers encountering traffic stops and other roadside emergency situations may be ticketed for not merging over into an adjacent lane or reducing their speed when no other lane is available.
At least 24 other states have similar laws designed to create a safety margin that officials hope will put an end to police and first responder fatalities caused by unsafe motorists.
“We’re dedicated to try to educate the public that this is a serious matter,” DPS director Roger Vanderpool said Thursday at a news conference.
“We lose too many of our officers to careless and reckless drivers,” he said. “Our vests will not stop that speeding vehicle.”
The sign south of Chandler will be near the area where DPS Sgt. Mark Dryer was killed in 1993 after being struck by a passing car during a traffic stop. Two other DPS officers have died in similar situations over the past decade.
Officer Floyd “Skip” Fink was killed in February 2000 when he was hit in his vehicle from behind by a motorist who had entered the emergency lane. The collision caused Fink’s police cruiser to burst into flames.
In 1998, officer Juan Cruz died from injuries sustained after his patrol car was hit in the high-speed lane during the investigation of another collision on I-10 near Tucson.
The “Move Over” public service message is being promoted by DPS in conjunction with Phoenix police and fire departments and the Arizona Department of Transportation.
According to Phoenix Fire spokesman Mike Sandulak, collisions caused by motorists not paying attention to fire trucks on freeways is one of the largest causes of death for firefighters nationwide.
The danger of deaths involving stopped roadway traffic is increasing due to the rise in the number of drivers and disabled cars, according to ADOT director Victor Mendez. He said the signs will help remind motorists about their responsibility to concentrate and drive cautiously for the safety of emergency crews and construction.
“Please give them a break,” Mendez said. “Be patient, move over and slow down.”