Group tells local drivers to move over

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sara Gregory
Salisbury Post
CONCORD ó You’ve seen this driver: She’s talking on her cell phone, sipping coffee and speeding down Interstate 85.
She doesn’t notice the ambulance stopped on the side of the road, and by the time she starts to brake, she has only a few seconds to change lanes.
And that’s not enough time to move over safely, AAA Carolinas Traffic Safety Manager Steve Phillips said.
“We should see this way ahead of time,” Phillips said.
AAA and Families for Roadside Safety sponsored a demonstration Monday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway to show motorists how to move out of the way of first responders safely and legally.
More than 40 states have move-over laws. Since 2006, motorists who violate North Carolina’s law can find themselves with a fine up to $500 or criminal charges.
“It’s a simple act with disastrous consequences when you don’t do it,” said Tom Crosby, vice president of communications for AAA Carolinas. “It all begins with a very basic drive-safe technique.”
The law requires drivers to move into another lane if a law enforcement, fire department, public or private ambulance or public service vehicle is on the side of the road.
When drivers can’t move into another lane, they’re required to slow down and prepare to stop.
Phillips said most drivers know they should slow down, but that they often don’t know by how much. Braking from 80 mph to 70 mph isn’t enough, he said.
“The confusion happens about slowing down,” Phillips said, adding that drivers should slow down to about 10 mph.
Here’s what to do if you see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road:
– If you’re in the lane closest to the emergency vehicle, immediately start slowing down and put your turn signal on to switch lanes. Try to look 15 seconds ahead to give you plenty of time to react.
– If there’s enough room between your car and those in the other lane, move over. If yours is the car in the farthest lane, let other cars in front of you.
– If there isn’t enough room, keep slowing down and prepare to stop.
– After you pass the emergency vehicle, it’s safe to move back into the lanes you were originally travelling in.
Letting drivers know about the law also serves another purpose.
“Hopefully that will keep you safe,” said Tim Hayes, a former Mecklenburg County paramedic who became an amputee after he was struck while responding to a roadside emergency.
Phillips stressed that drivers need to avoid distractions while driving and be aware of their surroundings.
“We share the road with others,” he said. “It’s everybody’s responsibility.”
Contact Sara Gregory at 704-797-4257 or