posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken
So there we were. Sunday evening, heading down the dark highway in central New Hampshire. We were pretty quiet, thinking about my sister's husband, who is dying in a Vermont hospital. It looks like one of those awful, sudden things, except that nobody knows how much longer, etc. Anyway, we were sad.
A storm was heading our way, forecast to start soon, and we were hoping to beat it home, but Ray is not a racecar driver, so all was legal.
On a long stretch of road, we could see a flashing blue light ahead; a trooper had stopped another vehicle. Their business concluded, the offender pulled back onto the road and headed off. As we passed the trooper, still standing behind his patrol car, he sort of waved.
Within a mile, we could see the flashing blue again. Hey, is he after us? Nah, can't be. Not speeding. Seat belts hooked. Head- and tail-lights all okay.
But for what?
"Did you ever hear of the 'Move Over' legislation?"
We hadn't. He explained. The law is designed to protect law enforcement and emergency personnel working in a highway breakdown lane. Approaching cars must change lanes to provide a margin of safe clearance to the law enforcement officers at the side of the road. He said New Hampshire and Vermont have the law, as do many other states. I asked if Massachusetts does, and he didn't know.
The trooper did the license-and-registration thing, then gave us a written warning and a website to check; go to Move Over America . We agreed it is a sensible law and parted friends.
Of course, as soon as I had a chance, I checked out the website. Over 150 officers have been killed during traffic stops in the last ten years in the US. According to their map, all but a handful of states have passed Move Over laws. In fact, Nebraska and a few recalcitrant East Coast states plus Hawaii stand alone without the legislation.
I called the business number of our local police station last night and asked if Massachusetts has the law. The dispatcher didn't think so, and the map agrees with that. On the other hand, the website reports a poll finding that 71% of Americans have never heard of Move Over laws, so we had plenty of company. The poll results showed that the vast majority of us think the laws are a good idea.
We have driven thousands of miles in Maine, which has the law, as does Alaska.
Alaska? Where you can drive for miles and never see another vehicle? We really are behind here.
Close to 30 years ago I worked with a nice fellow named Walter. Middle-aged, he had nine kids, with a lot of them still at home. One night he stopped to help someone change a tire on a back road and was killed by a drunk driver. Move Over laws wouldn't have made a whit of difference in his case, but this legislation will surely save lives.
So if you live in RI, CT, NJ, DE, MD, HI, DC or good old Massachusetts, sign the petition and get on the bandwagon. If you live someplace else, please Move Over.
Once we all have that down, can we talk about you people who don't use your turn signals?