While deaths on Wisconsin roads declined slightly in 2018 compared to the previous two years, many deaths still occur each year when drivers fail to abide by the state’s “Move Over Law.” Just recently, a tow truck driver was struck and killed by a passing motorist as he was working to remove a stalled vehicle on I-41 northbound near Oneida Street in Ashwaubenon. The incident occurred in the early afternoon and there were no inclement weather conditions that contributed to the crash. The tow truck driver died at the scene after being struck and left behind a wife and two small children.
In 2001, Wisconsin passed the “Move Over Law,” which was designed to protect the many brave men and women that work along the state’s roadways from harm. Among those that the law was designed to protect are law enforcement officers, emergency responders, tow truck operators, and other highway maintenance workers.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the concept of the Move Over Law is simple: “If you see a vehicle on the side of the road with its emergency lights flashing, you are required to move out of the lane closest to the vehicle if possible. If a safe lane change is not possible, or you are traveling on a two-lane roadway, you are required to slow your vehicle, maintaining a safe speed for traffic conditions, and drive at a reduced speed until completely past the vehicle.”
The penalties for not abiding by the Move Over Law are not light given the extreme risks to those working along Wisconsin’s roadways if vehicles do not move over or slow down. If someone who violates the Move Over Law receives a ticket, he or she will be assessed three demerit points from their driver’s license and also receive a $249 fine. If a violation of the Move Over Law results in a crash, the violator’s driver’s license will be suspended. If someone is hurt or killed, the violator can serve up to seven years in prison for the violation. (https://wisconsindot.gov/Documents/about-wisdot/who-we-are/dtsd/bto/brochure-moveover.pdf)
While it is important as drivers to be aware of and abide by the Move Over Law, it is also worth mentioning some rules of thumb to keep in mind if you find yourself in an emergency situation alongside a road or highway. In an interview with Fox 11 News, Lieutenant John Bain from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department acknowledged the inherent risks of being stopped or stranded on the side of the road and gave the public several rules to follow if they are in an emergency situation. First and foremost, he stated that it is important that the individual does all that they can to get to a safe location. Lt. Bain defined a safe location as one that is “eat least four to five feet away from any lane of traffic.” Once he or she is in a safe location, Lt. Bain encourages them to notify the authorities who can provide traffic control in an effort to keep everyone safe. He further advised that, at least until authorities arrive to aid in traffic control, the individual is to stay in their vehicle with the seat belt fastened. (https://fox11online.com/news/local/part-of-i-41-closed-in-ashwaubenon)
Motorists in Wisconsin must remind themselves of what the Move Over Law mandates and become more mindful of its purpose while driving, especially on busy roadways. Fatalities along Wisconsin roadways would be drastically reduced if drivers were more conscientious about the Move Over Law. It is especially important to remind ourselves of the Move Over Law during the winter months as snow covered and icy roadways oftentimes lead to an increase in traffic crashes and stalled vehicles on the sides of the road. Abiding by the Move Over Law creates a safety zone for the law enforcement officers, tow truck drivers, highway workers, and others tending to vehicles along the roadways.
Two lane county highways often create a greater risk of danger as there might not be room for a vehicle to “move over” if there is oncoming traffic. This is why it is crucial that if a vehicle cannot safely move over, it must slow down to a speed safe for traffic conditions but slow enough that the driver maintains control of the vehicle if it needs to slow or stop in a short amount of time.
Injuries caused when a motorist fails to abide by the Move Over Law are often serious, many times even resulting in death, due to the speeds that vehicles travel along the highways in Wisconsin. The Move Over Law was designed to keep people safe and protect the lives of those who work along Wisconsin roadways each day.
If you find yourself in an emergency situation along a Wisconsin road or highway, you should first get to a safe location and immediately call for help. Do not attempt to exit your vehicle and tend to it without the proper traffic controls to notify passersby of your presence near the roadway. Make the call and request the help of law enforcement officers because it can save your life as well as the lives of those in your vehicle. This is especially important in the evening hours when there is no natural daylight making it easier to spot a stalled vehicle on the side of the road.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a vehicle vs. pedestrian crash, call the skilled, dedicated and proven attorneys at Groth Law Firm. Groth Law Firm understands the pain and stress caused by these types of injuries and has years of experience helping clients on their journey of recovery. The team at Groth Law Firm dedicates their practice exclusively to representing those injured by the negligence of others, particularly in the context of motor vehicle crashes and vehicle vs. pedestrian crashes. Groth Law Firm will make sure that all of your rights are protected and use their knowledge and experience to maximize your recovery. Call the team at Groth Law Firm at (414) 375-2030 for a free consultation.