Traffic safety remains an imminent concern in Minnesota, with the most recent data reporting more than 78,000 traffic crashes involving nearly 144,000 motor vehicles and 190,000 people. Those crashes caused 361 deaths and more than 29,000 injuries—in one year alone.
The men and women who serve as first responders such as law enforcement, emergency medical technicians and roadside assistance workers are among the true highway heroes. Roadside assistance workers act day and night, in all kinds of weather. Sadly, their job also is one of the most dangerous. Some are injured in the line of duty, while others never make it home. Lance Klatt, the Executive Director of the Minnesota Professional Towing Association, succinctly summarizes the issue, “for our drivers, getting hit is a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if.’”
Like the rest of the country, Minnesota has adopted state laws to help ensure the safety of roadside assistance personnel and other emergency responders. Move Over laws, as they have come to be known, require motorists to change lanes or slow down when approaching emergency vehicles such as police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and roadside assistance vehicles such as tow trucks stopped on the side of the road with their lights flashing.
Although Move Over laws exist in every state, there is still little knowledge of them. In a national poll, 71 percent of Americans said they have not heard of them. The law’s wording varies from state to state, but here are some general answers to key questions to help keep you and roadside workers safe.
In May, the Foundation highlighted the dangers and misconceptions around the Move Over law. through a combination of public service announcements, community outreach, and media engagement. Most drivers are unaware that the law requires all motorists to move over a lane or at least slow down for all stopped emergency vehicles, which includes tow trucks. The law is important for the safety of both our members and service providers who responded to over 100,000 road-side assistance calls last year alone.
The response to the campaign has been incredible. The video, which was posted on our Facebook page, has been viewed over 50,000 times and has been shared over 900 times in just one week. Upon watching the video, one commentator recalled her story, “My son is a tow driver, he has two little kids and a wife to go home to at night.” Her comment echoes the concerns of countless other families in the industry and goes to the heart of our campaign.
The Foundation sponsored Public Service Announcements on 1500 ESPN and Go 96.3. click to listen
Additionally, our campaign has been covered by Fox 9, WCCO, Kare 11, and the Star Tribune. The Star Tribune article was – for a moment – headline news and one of the most read articles on the site. The success of our message has in many ways been unprecedented and sets the bar high for our future campaigns.
Moving over or slowing down for emergency vehicles on the roadside is the safe thing to do in any state because it provides a needed safety cushion for those who help motorists and keeps them safe on the roadways. Doing so is not just the right thing to do – it’s the law.
Q:What should I do if I see an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road with lights flashing?
A: First, slow down so you can assess the situation. If you’re on a multilane highway and it’s safe to do so, move over by changing lanes away from the emergency vehicle. Leave at least one vacant lane between you and the emergency vehicle to provide a safe zone for emergency vehicles or workers performing their jobs in the area.
Q:What should I do if I’m not able to safely change lanes away from the emergency vehicle or I’m on a two-lane road?
A: If you are unable to safely move over by changing lanes, you should slow down to at least 20 mph below the posted speed limit and approach with caution.
Q: If I cannot change lanes safely, should I stop my vehicle in the roadway?
A: No, you should slow down while maintaining a safe speed. Do not block traffic flow unless directed to do so by emergency personnel.
Q: How can I avoid becoming involved in a crash when traffic slows?
A: Stay alert. The single most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others is to pay attention behind the wheel. By scanning the roadway for incidents that lie ahead and being aware of vehicle activity around you, you can anticipate problems and react safely.
How to Donate
Your support ensures that we can continue to build, execute, and implement educational awareness campaigns around important issues such as Drugged Driving, the Move Over Law and youth traffic safety. The Foundation provides schools, civic groups and local law enforcement with resources at no cost. Please make your donation check out to the AAA Minneapolis Foundation for Safety and mail it to:
Attn: Foundation for Safety 5400 Auto Club Way St. Louis Park, MN 55416
The Minneapolis Auto Club Foundation for Safety is a 501 (C) 3 organization. No goods were given nor services performed in exchange for this contribution. Your contribution may or may not be tax deductible; please consult your tax advisor.