Marylanders Prepare for Move Over Law Expansion - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Marylanders Prepare for Move Over Law Expansion

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 TOWSON, Md. - Drivers in Maryland will soon be required to move over if they see a tow truck attending to a roadside emergency. Maryland State Police say the expanded "Move Over" law goes into effect on Wednesday, October 1 and adds tow trucks to the list of emergency vehicles for which drivers must move over.

Maryland State Police Superintendent, Colonel Marcus L. Brown joined elected officials and representatives from AAA Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday to announce the expanded law at Maryland State Police Headquarters in Pikesville.

AAA Mid-Atlantic says State Senator Nancy Jacobs (R, District 34) and State Delegate James Malone Jr. (D, District 12A) also participated in Wednesday's event. Both Jacobs and Malone have been lead sponsors for the move over legislation for years.  The initial legislation that passed in 2010 only applied to fire and police vehicles, however the expanded law will now include tow trucks.  

"This legislation honors the memories of those who have lost their lives.  It provides a safety net of protection for towers who serve us each and every day on Maryland's highways," said Senator Jacobs.  Delegate Malone, who has faithfully served the citizens of Baltimore County for nearly 40 years as a firefighter added, "If people slow down and move over, this law will save lives," he said.

"The intent of the move over law is to provide an extra barrier of safety for police officers, fire fighters, emergency rescue personnel, and tow service operators working along Maryland roads.  It is imperative that drivers stay alert for these types of situations and move away from them or slow down as they pass by the traffic stop or incident scene," said Colonel Marcus L. Brown.  

Brown also remarked about the numerous calls he has received as the head of both the Maryland Transportation Authority Police and the State Police, where he's had to hear the unfortunate news that one of his officers or troopers had been killed or injured while doing their jobs on the side of the road.

Trooper Jacqueline Kline was one of those injured in the line of duty nearly a year ago.  Maryland State Police say Kline was assisting another trooper on a traffic stop when she was struck and seriously injured.  AAA Mid-Atlantic says Trooper Kline, whose injuries were so severe that she has not yet been able to return to full duty, was also on hand at the event Wednesday and courageously spoke of the horrible ordeal.

In addition to the dangers facing law enforcement on the roads, tow truck operators are also at risk as they service disabled motorists.  Nationwide, AAA Mid-Atlantic says that from January 2000 until December 31, 2005, approximately 130 tow operators in the U.S. were killed from tow-related incidents or accidents. Of those killed, many were involved in service activities on the highway, according to American Towman Magazine.  In Maryland, in August 2011, 38 year-old, tow truck driver, James Schreiber was struck and killed in Anne Arundel County while assisting a disabled truck, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

AAA has been a vocal advocate of move over legislation across the country. "AAA Mid-Atlantic applauds the sponsors of this legislation, as well as the Maryland General Assembly for recognizing the importance of having tow truck drivers included in Maryland's move over law," stated Ragina Cooper-Averella, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "We supported the law to protect law enforcement officers and first responders in 2010 and believe that those same protections are also necessary to protect tow truck drivers. Unfortunately, we have seen numerous tragedies occur that are sobering reminders of the dangers that law enforcement officers and tow truck drivers encounter every day while doing their jobs," Cooper-Averella added.  AAA Mid-Atlantic, with nearly one million members in Maryland, is the largest tower in the state, providing its members with approximately 213,000 tows on average per year.

With this law, Maryland becomes the 47th state to provide move over protections to tow truck drivers, as well as police and other emergency vehicles.  Currently, only the District of Columbia has no move over law in place at all and Louisiana, New Mexico, and Wyoming are the only states that have no law to protect tow truck operators.

According to Maryland State Police, violating the move over law can result in a fine of $110 and one point.  If the violation contributes to a traffic crash, the fine is $150 and three points.  If the violation contributes to a traffic crash resulting in death or serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points, in addition to the devastating personal tragedies a crash like that will cause.  "Public education continues to be essential, despite Maryland's law being on the books for four years and numerous public awareness efforts by police and traffic safety advocates, many motorists continue to ignore or be unaware of the law," concluded Cooper-Averella.

According to a national poll by Mason Dixon Polling & Research, sponsored by the National Safety Commission, 71 percent of Americans have not heard of move-over laws.
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