Dave Cross, CEO Plateau Electric Cooperative and Board President, TECA

Most of us pretty instinctively slow down when we spot the flashing lights of a law enforcement vehicle or an ambulance on the side of the roadway ahead. But that’s not enough, folks.

As drivers in the state of Tennessee, we have a statutory responsibility to move over into the next lane (after it’s safe to do so, of course) if we encounter an emergency vehicle. In other words, it’s the law. If it’s not possible to safely move into the next lane, then we have an obligation to reduce our speed accordingly.

The need to move over for a “first responder” seems pretty obvious, but there are other types of vehicles that need a wide berth: utility vehicles (my personal favorite), highway maintenance vehicles, tow trucks, solid waste trucks and other vehicles operated by those whose jobs require them to work alongside roadways.

It may seem like a matter of common sense, but failure to obey the “Move Over” law is punishable by a fine of $500; violators can also be subject to up to 30 days of jail time. This is more than a matter of courtesy to others; you or someone you love who happened to experience car trouble could benefit from the law. That’s because a recent amendment included any personal vehicle that has pulled over with hazard lights flashing. And the law applies to any road in the state — from a small residential street to a busy interstate highway.

The consequences of ignoring the Move Over law can involve much more than penalties for those who violate it. Just over a year ago, a supervisor with the Tennessee Department of Transportation was struck by a motorist while working along I-40 in Knoxville and had to be hospitalized.

From my own point of view, I can imagine few things more disturbing than being informed that one of our electric cooperative employees was injured — or worse — from being struck by a vehicle while working along one of the roadways in our service areas. Our workers always take care to wear high-visibility safety vests. We place cones around our roadside workspaces and, if the situation calls for it, use “flaggers” to help route traffic around the area where we’re working.

But none of those precautions will make the slightest bit of difference if a driver fails to move over or slow down. The safety zone established by the Move Over law is designed to protect the lives of those whose truly essential work requires them to operate along our roadways. Don’t we owe these folks the courtesy of not making their (often hazardous) jobs even more dangerous than they already are?

Put yourself in the position of having a loved one working within this “side of the road” space. We’d all be grateful to those who strictly obey the Move Over law. Instead of finding motivation in your desire to avoid being ticketed, fined or even jailed, I hope you’ll decide to move over and slow down because it’s the right thing to do.

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