Motorists ‘May Not Grasp’ Danger to Roadside Workers

New research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates many motorists may not fully grasp the danger districted driving poses to roadside workers – danger heightened if motorists do not obey “Move Over” laws.

[Above photo by the Virginia DOT]

AAA Foundation’s research found that 42 percent thought non-compliance with “Move Over” laws was “somewhat or not dangerous at all” to roadside emergency workers – demonstrating that many drivers may not realize risks faced by those working on roadsides close to moving traffic.

Furthermore, nearly a quarter of those surveyed by the AAA Foundation (23 percent) are “unaware” of the “Move Over” law in the state where they live. Among those aware of their state’s “Move Over” laws, about 15 percent said they “do not understand” the potential consequences for violating them.

[Editor’s note: National Work Zone Awareness Week or NWZAW is an annual U.S. aimed at raising awareness about the safety needs of roadside workers. State departments of transportation work with national road safety organizations, government agencies, private companies, and individuals to spread awareness about work zone safety among the motoring public. State DOTs interested in hosting a 2023 NWZAW event should click here.]

In Colorado, for instance, the AAA Foundation said motorists face a $70 ticket, four penalty points, and a misdemeanor charge for failure to move over or slow down when approaching an emergency vehicle, tow truck, utility vehicle, or road maintenance vehicle with flashing lights on the side of the road.

Photo by the Ohio DOT

Meanwhile, Ohio’s “Move Over” law requires all drivers to proceed with caution and if possible move over one lane when passing an emergency vehicle, tow truck, municipal vehicle, or road maintenance vehicle with flashing or rotating lights parked on the roadside, and violators can face fines up to $300 for a first offense.

AAA also noted that on average 24 emergency responders – including tow truck operators – die every year due to vehicle strikes while working on the roadside work.

On top of that, since 2015, vehicle strikes killed 1,600 people standing outside a disabled vehicle on the roadside; fatality numbers due in large measure to distracted driving, past AAA Foundation research suggests.

The organization said it has found drivers are up to four times as likely to crash if they are talking on a cell phone while driving – and are up to eight times as likely to be in a crash if texting.

“Deaths like these can be avoided if drivers slow down and move over to give these people room to work safely,” said Marshall Doney, AAA president and CEO, in a statement. “We can’t stress enough how important it is to pay attention so you have time to change lanes when you see AAA, an emergency responder, or simply anybody along the side of the road.”

Related articles