by VERONICA GORDON
Between 1999 and 2011, 175 law enforcement officers were killed nationally after being struck by a vehicle in the line of duty. That number hits close to home for Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett.
“Several months ago, a driver struck one fire truck and three police vehicles on IH-35 while the emergency responders were working the scene of a major accident,” Barnett said. “The driver narrowly missed several police, fire and EMS personnel.”
The Buda and Kyle police departments and the Hays County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Enforcement Unit are joining forces with various law enforcement agencies along the IH-35 corridor in an enhanced operation targeting drivers who are passing authorized emergency vehicles in violation of the Move Over Act.
“There are many police and fire personnel killed every year conducting business on highways, which led to the Texas legislation on this issue,” said Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd. “As a result (Austin PD) has spearheaded an effort to educate the public and have enhanced enforcement of this relatively new law (passed a few years ago). I believe that all law enforcement agencies between Georgetown and San Antonio are participating in this initiative.”
Move Over laws are intended to protect the driving public, emergency responders, tow truck drivers and transportation workers by requiring drivers to slow down or move over a lane when passing authorized emergency vehicles that have their lights activated.
The local operation began Monday and runs until Friday, Nov. 2.
“Law enforcement officers experience close calls with speeding drivers each week as they enforce the traffic laws to keep our roadways safe,” Barnett said. “Our goal is to improve roadway safety for everyone. The Kyle area emergency responders work several accidents each week, exposing them to the dangerous elements of interstate traffic. The enforcement of this law along the Central Texas corridor highlights our commitment to improving the safety in our community.”
Violations include a misdemeanor and/or a fine of $500 if the violation results in property damage; and a Class B misdemeanor if the violation results in bodily injury.
A national survey of U.S. drivers from the Texas Transportation Institute indicates that “71 percent of Americans have not heard of ‘Move Over’ laws.”
The Texas Transportation Code 545.157 defines the requirements of the Texas Move Over Act (TMOA).
It requires that drivers vacate the lane adjacent to a stopped emergency vehicle that has its emergency lights on, or slow down to 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit when the posted speed limit is at or above 25 miles per hour (or slow to 5 mph when the posted speed is less than 25 mph).
“Allowing the safe distance between fast moving vehicles and the emergency workers, or slowing down as required by law, gives more reaction time to drivers to respond appropriately to the roadway conditions and presence of emergency workers or other hazards,” Barnett said.
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