State laws protect first responders working on the roadsNovember Law of the Month: Move Over or Slow Down
The Wisconsin State Patrol’s November Law of the Month reminds drivers of the laws they must follow to create a safety zone for emergency crews on the highway.
Communities across Wisconsin rely on the services of nearly 40,000 law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS workers and tow truck drivers. Those first responders depend on drivers to help keep them safe when they’re working on the side of the roads.
Wisconsin’s Move Over law requires drivers to move out of the lane closest to emergency and roadside service vehicles that are stopped along a highway with their warning lights activated. If you can’t move over, you must slow down.
Drivers also cannot use a handheld phone while passing through a highway maintenance or construction area, in a utility work area, or emergency or roadside response area. Fines double for certain violations in an emergency response area, which is defined as 500 feet surrounding an emergency vehicle.
“These laws are simple but have a significant impact. Whether clearing a crash, helping someone who’s hurt, or talking with a driver, first responders have a job to do. They need to know they can do that job safely, without fear of being hurt themselves,” State Patrol Superintendent Tim Carnahan said.
Last year, 326 on duty workers were hurt and five were killed in crashes across Wisconsin. Those incidents often occur when crews are responding to a crash or other highway incident.
A crash scene can turn dangerous quickly for law enforcement, EMS, or fire crews, because of the risk of secondary crashes. There have been more than 4,000 secondary crashes in Wisconsin since 2018. Those involved in a crash and first responders are in greater danger in inclement weather and when other drivers are following too closely or not paying attention to traffic.
Crash Responder Safety Week, November 13-17, 2023, is a nationwide effort to call attention to the risks first responders face on duty. Responders train to manage and clear roadside incidents with a focus on safety, but drivers play a critical role in keeping workers safe. Drivers should always scan the road ahead carefully for potential traffic problems or incidents, including stopped emergency responders.