What this means on a multi-lane highway is that any driver approaching an emergency vehicle parked on the side of the roadway must slow down, or, if possible, with due regard to safety and traffic conditions, make a lane change prior to coming upon the stopped vehicle. If caught, failure to do so will result in a Class C Misdemeanor or at least a $50 fine.
Emergency vehicles, according to the law, may not only belong to law enforcement. They also may be wreckers or tow trucks performing emergency service, a vehicle belonging to a coroner in the line of duty, vehicles belonging to civil defense or emergency management workers and any vehicle designated to perform hazardous substance emergency functions.
"Statistics support the need for traffic laws dealing with emergency vehicles," according to Terri Durdaller, spokesperson for the department of public safety. "In 2004, there were three fatal accidents, three fatalities and 221 total injuries in highway incidents involving emergency vehicles. Just this year, 16 Highway Patrol cars have been hit on the shoulder while pulling a motorist over for a violation."
In addition Durdaller called attention to the more than 20,000 traffic accidents that were caused by inattention on the part of drivers in Missouri in 2004. With the majority of fatal, injury and total accidents occurring during ideal weather conditions and during daylight hours drivers, he said, simply are not paying attention.
Colonel Roger D. Stottlemyre, Superintendent of the Highway Patrol, said the four troopers would be alive today if drivers would have paid more attention. Troopers John A. (Jay) Sampietro and Donald K. (Kevin) Floyd were killed in 2005, Trooper Michael L. Newton was killed in 2003, and Trooper Kelly L. Poynter was killed in 2002--all during traffic stops or during accident investigations.
"Saying I am sorry will never bring these officers back," Stottlemyre said. "They died because somebody did not take the job of driving a vehicle seriously. Please, when you see emergency personnel or construction workers on our highways, slow down and move over. Our lives are on your shoulders."
Troop I in Rolla has already conducted two move over enforcement operations. The typical protocol during these details is to send two or more cars out and after one patrol car makes a legitimate enforcement stop with those cars watching for vehicles who do not slow down or change lanes provided it is safe.
On Oct. 28, troopers patrolling Phelps County made 30 arrests and issued 24 warnings during a move over enforcement operation. Of the 30 citations that were issued, seven were issued because drivers failed to move over or slow down for a stopped patrol car that had activated emergency lights. In addition to these violations, troopers also ticketed 14 individuals for speeding, four for not wearing a seat belt and seven for various other non-moving traffic violations.