April 7, 2020
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Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., proposed new legislation on October 8 designed to reduce first responder roadside deaths by establishing a new national safety priority within an existing federal grant program to increase public awareness of “Move Over” laws and encourage implementation of life-saving vehicle technology.

[Above photo by the Virginia Department of Transportation.]

Called the “Protecting Roadside First Responders Act,” the bill would also:

  • Require National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to promulgate rules mandating crash avoidance technology on all new motor vehicles by 2022 including automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, and lane departure warnings.
  • Require all federal fleet vehicles to have crash avoidance technology – automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, and lane departure warning – by 2025.
  • Require all federal fleet vehicles used for emergency response activities to be equipped with digital alert technology by 2025.
  • Require NHTSA to produce research findings on the efficacy of “Move Over” laws and related public awareness campaigns as well as recommendations on how to improve these efforts to prevent roadside deaths

“We need to do more to respond to the alarming rise in first responder roadside deaths,” Sen. Durbin said in a statement.

Photo by the Illinois DOT

“Move Over laws like Scott’s Law in Illinois are critical to keeping first responders safe when they are responding to an incident, but it’s clear that we need to raise awareness of these laws and add digital alert technology for drivers. The Protecting Roadside First Responders Act will provide states with the resources to better enforce these laws and help keep our first responders safe.”

[The video below produced by the Nevada Department of Transportation last year explains the importance of “Move Over” laws to the lives of those working on the highways.]

“Across the country, and right here in our communities in Illinois, we have seen too many preventable tragedies occur during stops along major roads and highways,” Rep. Bustos added. “We must do more to ensure our Move Over laws are followed, protect our first responders and save lives – which is what makes this new legislation so important.”

Photo by the Illinois DOT

As of October, there have been 29 auto-related first-responder deaths nationwide in 2019, as opposed to 21 at the same time last year – and Sen. Durbin noted that recent studies indicate more than 70 percent of Americans are unaware of Move Over laws like Scott’s Law in Illinois, which requires motorists to slow down and, if possible, move over when they see a parked squad car, fire engine, or ambulance with flashing lights, even though all 50 states have Move Over laws.

And while NHTSA operates two federal grant programs focused on highway safety, neither currently address “Move Over” laws, said Sen. Durbin.

To change that, he said the Protecting Roadside First Responders Act would establish move over law education and compliance as a national highway safety priority under existing NHTSA programs – allowing states to apply for grant funding to execute move over law awareness campaigns, and to equip vehicles with digital alert and crash avoidance technology.

editor@aashto.org

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