Multimedia | Move Over, Virginia
Report by Chris Graham
There is unfortunately plenty of confusion over what you’re legally required to do when you come upon the scene of a law-enforcement or emergency-response situation on Virginia roadways. I have to admit that I was among the confused even as I made it a personal courtesy to slow down and move over a lane when possible.
What I thought was courtesy turns out to be state law dating back to 2002. I know that, and you do now, too, because of a new partnership between the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Trucking Association, Lawrence Transportation Systems, Houff Transfer and Coca-Cola Bottling.
“It means so much to us in law enforcement and emergency response that they would take the time and the effort to put these decals on and to make this message be known across the state,” said Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Steven Flaherty at a news event at Houff Transfer in Weyers Cave Thursday morning, flanked by State Police, local law enforcement and representatives of the local transport industry.
Houff Transfer and the Lawrence and Coca-Cola Bottling operations based in Roanoke used the occasion to talk up how they have outfitted hundreds of their trucks with Move Over labels designed to get the attention of the driving public.
“Communicating to our employees about safety every day is an important facet of our business. Now we have the opportunity to not only communicate this to our employees, but to everybody that happens to be behind one of our trailers,” said Richard Schilling, the vice president of Lawrence Transportation, which has placed the Move Over stickers on a third of its Mid-Atlantic fleet, with plans to outfit all new trucks with the decals.
“It seems like a small part for us to do, but it’s a great deal for us to help them protect all the cadets, all the captains, everyone that’s out there on the road in emergency lanes taking care of people as they go down the roads,” said Wade Miller, the area fleet manager for Coca-Cola Bottling.
Virginia is one of 40 states in the country with a Move Over law. Flaherty said Virginia’s law is one of the stricter in terms of penalties. Violators of the law can receive up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
The stakes for law-enforcement, emergency-services personnel and people in the service industry for whom a roadside is also a workplace are, of course, much, much higher. Eighteen law-enforcement officers nationwide were struck and killed while standing outside their vehicles in 2008, and that’s not counting the many, many near-tragedies. Flaherty told the story of a recent accident involving a state trooper pulled over off Interstate 95 in the Dale Citiy area that has the State Police’s attention right now in that respect. “Thank goodness, because he had stopped on the left shoulder, he was standing away from traffic, and he wasn’t struck. Thank goodness the motorist in the vehicle he struck wasn’t injured,” Flaherty said. “You probably didn’t hear about this crash because no one was injured, but it’s yet another example of the problem that we’re here to talk to you about today, another example of the dangers that face people that are in law enforcement, people that are in emergency-response jobs, and those people who have some service that requires them to be alongside the highway.”
We’re all in this together was the general message of the day. “Unlike the stereotypes that are portrayed on Hollywood and on TV, professional truck drivers and state troopers and law enforcement have several things in common. The most important thing is that we share the same workplace,” said Dale Bennett, the executive vice president of the Virginia Trucking Association, a nonprofit with a membership of more than 550 trucking companies in the Commonwealth. “The highways of this country and this state are their workplace, and just as everyone else must strive to keep themselves and their coworkers safe in their work environments, truck drivers, law enforcement and emergency responders do the same thing on a daily basis,” Bennett said.
“It’s going to take more than the superintendent of the Virginia State Police standing here before you talking. It’s going to take a partnership much like you see here behind me. It’s not something we can do alone. By partnering, we have more opportunity to get our message out,” Flaherty said.
For more information on Virginia’s Move Over law, go to the Virginia State Police website at www.vsp.virginia.gov.
– Story by Chris Graham