Ohio Highway Patrol renews push for "Move over and slow down" campaign after recent tragedies

OHP move over law

“Imagine this: You’re driving on the highway and see an emergency vehicle up ahead with flashing lights stopped off the side of the road.  This is the time when you need to slow down or move over one lane,” states the opening of an Ohio Highway Patrol public safety announcement for Ohio’s Move Over Law.  The OHP, through a media release, is asking motorists to help keep their fellow drivers and law enforcement officers safe by following this law, which was enacted in 2009.  “Ohio law requires all drivers to move over one lane when approaching any vehicle with flashing or rotating lights parked on the roadside.  If moving over is not possible due to traffic or weather conditions, or because a second lane does not exist, motorists should slow down and proceed with caution,” according to an OHP media release.  In 2013, the law was expanded to also cover construction and maintenance workers as well.   “By moving over, motorists are helping to protect the lives of everyone who works on or uses our roadways,” said Sgt. Jeremy Kindler of OHP Chardon Post.  “It’s not just the law; it’s the right thing to do.’  OHP Sgt. Jim Smith, who was struck by a motorist on Mayfield and Auburn roads in Munson Township on July 29, feels that people get too busy or are in too much of a rush.  “Slow down and pay attention,” Smith said.  “Those few seconds that you are saving by not doing whatever it is you are doing, isn’t saving you enough time to risk a life.  Nowhere you have to be is worth a life.”  Kindler reports that during 2016, seven officers were struck within a eight-month period.  “We are putting out public safety announcements, we just want to make sure our motorists have a good understanding of what this law is and means and also what it means to everyone involved,” Kindler said.  Kindler noted that prior to 2016, citations weren’t really issued too often for this type of violation.  “With the increase in officers being struck from 2016 up until now, that’s an infraction and a violation that we are not only stopping and talking to you about, we are issuing you a citation,” he said.  OHP is enforcing this law with teams of troopers, Kindler explained.  “We usually have more than one officer working on the interstate,” he said.  “One officer makes the traffic stop.  The other officer will sit across from them, behind them or in front of them.  They watch as the violation occurs and runs a stationary radar.  If they fail to move over, or slow down, that is when the violation occurs.”  At that point, the second officer is then able to stop the motorist for the violation.  Depending on the court, fines for failure to move over or slow down can be doubled for a first offense and require a court appearance.  Kindler emphasizes the importance of the Move Over Law with the statement, “We want to go home at the end of the day.  “That’s our main goal for a traffic stop is not only to keep everyone else safe, but also to keep us safe as well.  This is near and dear to our hearts, to make sure that we are able to go home to our families at the end of the day just like everybody else is.”  Two law enforcement officers: OHP Trooper Kenneth Velez and Cleveland police officer David Fahey, were struck and killed on I-90 within a six-month period when motorists failed to move over or slow down.  Velez was struck on I-90 near Warren Road on Sept. 15 and Fahey was struck and killed Jan. 24 while putting out flares at the scene of an accident.  “You gotta think about the person on the side of the road as a person.  Think of that person as yourself and would you want someone flying by with 3 feet of you at 60 mph,” said Smith’s wife, Tiara, after he was struck.  “People think of that officer as a car.  Instead think of that officer as yourself or someone you love and be more considerate of that person as you are flying down the road.”  Smith recalls Velez as a good friend for 25 years and one he has known his entire career.  “This one hit me and my wife more than my own did,” Smith said.  “I was lucky to survive and he didn’t.  He didn’t have to die, it was a senseless tragedy.”  As he reflected on the crash that claimed Velez’s life, Smith posed the question:  “Why when you are on a road four lanes wide, why were you in that lane, when he was standing there on the side of the road?”