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Not everyone is moving over and slowing in emergency zones

Fire engine overhead forward lights. Video: Whatcom News

FERNDALE, Wash. — A local tow company operator tells of multiple instances when his tow trucks and even his crews have been struck by passing motorists while providing roadside assistance and at crash scenes.

Heston Hauling Owner Chris Heston says they have had tow truck doors and crews struck by passing vehicles while their warning lights were on. “It’s state law in Washington that traffic is to move or at least slow down where we are working with our flashing lights,” Heston said.

Heston is referring to what is known as the “Move Over Law.” It requires vehicles approaching an emergency response vehicle slow down and, if safe to do so, move over or change lanes to pass by at a safe distance.

What people do not seem to realize, according to Heston, is the law was updated last summer to include highway construction/maintenance vehicles, utility vehicles and other vehicles, including tow trucks, providing roadside assistance with lights flashing.

Washington State Patrol (WSP) officials say an emergency or work zone is defined as the adjacent lanes of the roadway, two hundred feet before and after a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that has either their emergency lights and/or sirens on. This includes tow trucks, police vehicles, fire vehicles, and other vehicles providing roadside assistance.

According to the WSP,

  • Fines for exceeding the posted speed limit are doubled in emergency zones
  • Failure to move over or slow down in an emergency zone, the fine is doubled
  • Motorists could be charged with reckless endangerment if driving in a manner as to endanger any emergency worker
  • If convicted of reckless endangerment, motorists could have their driver’s license suspended for 90 days
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