Kitsap law enforcement hope to shine more light on ‘Move Over Act’

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More than 40 cars blew by Washington State Patrol (WSP) Trooper Krista Hedstrom’s patrol vehicle alongside State Route 3 in Silverdale Tuesday afternoon as she issued a citation to a driver.

“I can’t get out,” Hedstrom said as she attempted to open her car door.

The “Move Over Act” was made a statewide law in 2005 and Hedstrom said it’s an important law many motorists are unaware of.

“Most people say they don’t know about it, so we want to educate them,” Hedstrom said. “It’s amazing just how many people are unfamiliar with it.”

The “Move Over Act” requires motorists to change lanes away from the shoulder or lane occupied by an emergency vehicle with lights flashing. If a trooper stops a vehicle on the right shoulder of a highway, passing motorists are required to slow down and move to the left lane.

“If there’s heavy traffic and they can’t get over, they need to slow down and proceed with caution,” Hedstrom said. “We know that not everyone will be able to get over.”

Many states across the nation have some sort of “Move Over Act” to protect law enforcement officers and motorists alike. Videos of police officers getting struck by passing vehicles during routine traffic stops frequently pop up on the Internet. Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies are no exception to the threat of injury at the hands of motorists failing to slow down or move over.

“Some deputies have had near misses,” said Carolyn Pence, Kitsap County Traffic Safety Task Force coordinator. “I’ve talked to deputies who have had to go over the hoods of their cars.”

Deputy Mike Shannon said he’s never had any near misses during traffic stops, but said troopers and deputies could be “sitting ducks” while trapped inside their patrol vehicles as motorists blow by within inches of their vehicles. Shannon said officers never know whether or not a suspect driver is armed with a weapon until they can exit their patrol vehicles and make initial contact with the person.

Hedstrom said state patrol troopers have had “several close calls” during traffic stops and motorists do not yield to law enforcement “every single time” they conduct traffic stops.

“When you have traffic going by at 60-plus mph, it’s only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt,” Hedstrom said. “We want to educate people for our safety and their safety.”

Aside from the “Move Over Act,” state law also requires motorists to yield to emergency vehicles when they are traveling to a location with lights and sirens activated. Motorists need to move to the right and stop, allowing emergency vehicles to pass and arrive quickly and safely to their destinations.

“It’s for everybody’s safety,” Pence said.

What are the penalties for failure to follow the “Move Over Act” and for not moving to the right to allow emergency vehicles to pass? Monetary fines. Motorists caught not abiding by the “Move Over Act” will be issued a $124 citation. Those who do not yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles en route to a call will receive a $1,050 citation.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission is currently working on a statewide announcement to better inform motorists of the importance of the “Move Over Act” because people just aren’t familiar with the law, Pence said.

“We want to educate people on what the law is,” Hedstrom said. “We want to educate people now before (accidents) happen.”

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