Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and AAA – The Auto Club Group are partnering with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and local emergency first responders to promote Crash Responder Safety Week and raise awareness of the dangers emergency responders face on the roadside and how critical it is that drivers follow move over laws.
An average of 24 emergency responders is struck and killed by vehicles while working at the roadside each year across the country – meaning someone in this line of work is killed, on average, every other week.
It’s not just emergency responders being killed on the side of the road. In 2019, 13 people were struck and killed while outside of a disabled vehicle in Tennessee.
According to TDOT, five TDOT vehicles are struck every month by passing motorists resulting in injuries or damages.
“It is extremely important that all drivers Work with Us by paying attention, moving over, and slowing down for our HELP truck operators. Our HELP truck operators, law enforcement, and first responders continue to get hit with some resulting in fatalities. If everyone would follow these simple suggestions, we can be sure your public servants can go home to their family each day. Please, Work with Us. Move Over. Slow Down. It’s the law,” said Jay Norris, Occupational Health and Safety Division Director.
“Deaths like these can be avoided if drivers slow down and move over to give our tow providers and emergency responders room to work safely,” said Craig Horsley, Tennessee Director of Regional Automotive Services, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “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. The men and women who work at the roadside in Tennessee make a living keeping the motoring public safe. One thing they should never have to worry about is a vehicle veering into their work area and putting them in danger.”
“At the same time, it gives us the opportunity to share our common goal for safe and effective clearance. Last year at least 25 first responders were killed or injured while working incidents on the roadway. So far in 2021, that number is at least 26,” Jeff Long stated.
Startling new survey data from AAA – The Auto Club Group finds that:
- 19% of Tennessee drivers have experienced a crash or near miss with an emergency vehicle on the side of the road.
- 18% of drivers, aware of move over laws, do not know there is one in Tennessee
In Tennessee, drivers face a maximum fine of up to $500.00 and possibly up to 30 days in jail 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.
A granite memorial marker in Smith County honors the TDOT men and women killed in the line of duty since 1948 – a total of 112. The marker dedication reads in part, “The citizens of Tennessee are indebted and forever grateful for their service.”
Why aren’t Drivers Complying with Move Over Laws?
There are many reasons these types of crashes happen—unfamiliarity with Move Over laws or the driver being distracted and not realizing there is someone at the side of the road until it’s too late. Impairment is another factor, which greatly reduces a driver’s judgment and reaction time.
The reality is that drivers are increasingly distracted while driving. Previous AAA Foundation research has found that drivers are up to four times as likely to crash if they are talking on a cell phone while driving and up to eight times as likely to be in a crash if texting.
Advice for Drivers
To protect roadside workers, drivers with disabled vehicles, and others, and to improve highway safety, AAA offers these precautionary tips:
- Remain alert, avoid distractions and focus on the task of driving.
- Keep an eye out for situations where emergency vehicles, tow trucks, utility service vehicles or disabled vehicles are stopped on the side of the road.
- When you see these situations, slow down and if possible move one lane over and away from the people and vehicles stopped at the side of the road.
About AAA – The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second-largest AAA club in North America with more than 14 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec, and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking, and financial services, travel offerings, and more.
ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 62 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA’s mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety.