Is it possible for a driver to zone out behind the wheel to the point they miss seeing a big red fire engine on the shoulder with flashing lights? An exercise in enforcing the state Move Over law attempted to answer that question Friday afternoon on Route 1.
The answer came in the form of summons for drivers who made no effort to move over or even take their foot off the gas. Some received a warning and a pamphlet, explaining the Move Over law.
Other drivers got verbal praise from Sgt. Eric Nelson, of the Woodbridge police traffic safety bureau, as he directed five officers conducting Move Over law enforcement using a Woodbridge fire truck parked on the shoulder of Route 1 north.
“That minivan slowed from 51 to 38 (mph), he slowed down to under (the speed limit),” Nelson said. “We’re seeing better results in a positive way than our first time out here.”
The law requires drivers to move over one lane, if safe to do so, or to slow down below the speed limit when approaching an emergency vehicle, construction crew or tow truck with flashing lights on the side of the road. As of July 2012, every state now has a Move Over law.
There are ground rules Nelson has set for fair enforcement. Nelson checked vehicle speed with a laser radar. The fire engines was parked on a straight section of Route 1, where a traffic light south of the fire truck provided a natural break in traffic. Nelson only monitored vehicles that had a clear break in traffic to either safely move over a lane or slow down.
Enforcement is not done during the morning and evening commuter rush, he said.
“We want to take out any excuse for why they did not move over,” Nelson said. “It’s an education campaign to bring awareness (of the law).”
The concern is, if there were an actual emergency, firefighters would be perilously close to traffic. Some fire apparatus has water pumping equipment on the left side of the truck, which in this case would have put firefighters in the right lane of the highway.
There were more vehicles that slowed down than actually moved over, but Nelson was interested in seeing whether they did something to comply with the law. Some drivers went out of their way to significantly slow below the speed limit, while others never stopped accelerating.
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