Two state first responder professions are facing the same, major problem.
The Move Over Law requires drivers to change lanes when passing a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights. But drivers aren’t always adhering to the law, and that can cause life-altering situations.
“It’s just sad because it’s totally preventable.” N.C. State Highway Patrol Trooper Joseph Atwell said.
You have to move over, if you are unable to move over because of the traffic conditions you have to significantly reduce your speed.
Roger Hawkins, an N.C. Department of Transportation safety patrolman said, “this is a thing we deal with every day.”
“You have to keep your eyes peeled all the time,” Hawkins said.
Atwell and Hawkins agree drivers do not follow the law often. Both careers put them on the side of an interstate week after week with vehicles whizzing by.
“Vehicles are more than likely our No. 1 threat here on the highway patrol… there’s no excuse and it’s something I’ve dealt with personally,” Atwell said.
This summer, both Hawkins and Atwell encountered drivers not moving over.
Hawkins was on Interstate 40 in Pender County assisting a truck driver with a flat tire. When the job was complete, he thought all went well, and he got back in the vehicle.
“I looked in my mirror and I saw this car coming at a high rate of speed and it ran just right in the back of me,” he said. “If you see lights, don’t think just because they’re yellow they don’t mean anything.”
The crash caused Hawkins’ driver seat to break, and he was looking at the ceiling. Luckily, his brakes and seatbelt were on and he survived. Hawkins was back to work in a matter of days.
Atwell said when he pulls a driver over, “if we’re anywhere near an interstate, I will attempt to do a passenger side approach so that if something does happen, I’ll be on the passenger side of that vehicle – away from any danger.”
A few weeks ago, the Trooper was assisting deputies with a suspected drunk driver on a Wake County highway. “I was walking around my vehicle – I was going to get in the driver’s side,” Atwell said. “The sheriff’s deputy stopped and asked me one question and it stopped me just long enough to pause and then that vehicle hit [my car]. If he hadn’t asked me that question – that would’ve been my body.”