(July 2021, First responders on the scene of a serious motor vehicle accident along Rt. 4 near the intersection of Huntingtown High School in Huntingtown, MD)
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Governor Larry Hogan has declared November 8-14 as Crash Responder Safety Week in Maryland, supporting a national effort to raise awareness of the critical role motorists play in keeping responders safe as they perform their duties on our highways. As part of the observance, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA), the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA), MDTA Police and the MDOT Motor Vehicle Administration’s (MDOT MVA) Maryland Highway Safety Office are joining together to remind motorists to stay alert, move over and slow down when approaching traffic incidents and first responders.
“The men and women who respond to thousands of crash incidents and disabled vehicles each year on our roadways are serving the public and saving lives,” MDOT Secretary Greg Slater said. “Maryland’s responders are our neighbors, and the people they’re helping are wives, husbands, sons and daughters. We all share the responsibility to protect ourselves and others, and make Maryland’s roads as safe as they can be.”
According to the Highway Safety Office, first responders and highway workers responded to 95,507 reportable crashes on Maryland roadways in 2020, in addition to thousands of other traffic incidents such as disabled vehicles and roadway hazards. MDOT SHA first responders assist a motorist or manage a traffic incident an average of once every nine minutes, and it’s estimated their presence at crash scenes prevents 225 to 250 secondary incidents each year.
Since 2016, there have been 68 crashes at sites where MDOT SHA first responders were tending to traffic incidents, including five crashes so far this year. Nationally, 23 highway workers and one law enforcement officer are killed each month while performing their duties at a crash scene or roadway incident. In addition, one tow truck driver is killed alongside a roadway every six days, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).
“Our Emergency Traffic Patrols team keeps watch over more than two million miles of roadways in Maryland 24/7, and they are often the first to arrive at crash scenes to assist motorists and help restore traffic flow as safely and quickly as possible,” said MDOT SHA Administrator Tim Smith. “We need every motorist to do their part to protect these men and women and give them room to safely do their jobs by slowing down, moving over and staying alert when approaching traffic incidents.”
Crash Responder Safety Week, formerly known as Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, is designed to help educate the public on the importance of driving safely when approaching a crash or other roadside incident. To commemorate the week, MDOT SHA, the MDTA and the Highway Safety Office are coordinating several Move Over initiatives including social media messages, providing media interviews and posting messages on overhead highway signs throughout the state. In addition, MDTA Police and other law enforcement agencies will conduct high visibility enforcement initiatives.
“This year alone, the MDTA Police have experienced two officers being struck by drivers who failed to slow down and move over. Fortunately, both officers survived and are making recoveries, but these incidents are completely avoidable,” said MDTA Police Chief Colonel Kevin M. Anderson. “Our officers and highway responders are more than just a man or woman in uniform. They’re someone’s mother or father, an uncle, a sister or a friend. Remember that as you approach an incident at highway speeds.”
The Highway Safety Office has unveiled the latest element of its Be the Driver campaign – Be the MOVE OVER driver – aimed at helping drivers make the right decisions behind the wheel. Over the past six weeks, move over or slow down messages have been promoted on social media and billboards along major roadways across the state.
Drivers are urged to comply with Maryland’s Move Over law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching emergency, law enforcement, tow truck and transportation vehicles that are stopped, standing or parked on a highway with their red, amber or yellow lights flashing. If it is not safe or feasible to move over, motorists must slow to a reasonable speed that’s safe for existing weather, road and vehicular or pedestrian safety conditions.
A violation is a misdemeanor carrying a $110 fine and one point on the violator’s driving license. If the violation causes a crash, the fine is $150 and three points. If there is a death or serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points.
“It’s crucial that drivers give their full attention while behind the wheel to protect themselves and others on the road,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “We need all motorists to move over or slow down when approaching flashing lights, whether it is law enforcement, tow trucks, or utility or transportation vehicles. It’s up to us to ensure our roadside workers and emergency responders make it home safe.”
For more information on the Move Over law, visit www.roads.maryland.gov.