WASHINGTON, D. C. (Monday, October 1, 2018) –– Beginning today, Maryland’s Move Over law expands to include transportation, service and utility vehicles, as well as waste and recycling trucks, with yellow or amber flashing lights or signal devices. These vehicles join the list of protected vehicles under the state’s current Move Over law, which includes emergency response, law enforcement vehicles and tow trucks. Since 2010, nearly 20,000 motorists have been ticketed for violating the state’s Move Over law, and over 64,000 motorists were issued warning citations for failing to move over or slow down for emergency vehicles.
The changes to the move over law will protect the lives and limbs of sanitation workers, refuge collectors, along with helpers on recycling trucks. Similarly, to safeguard workers collecting trash or recycling, Virginia lawmakers passed a “Slow-Down-to-Get-Around Law” in 2015, which governs the procedure for passing and overtaking stationary refuse-collection vehicles, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Being struck by a vehicle remains one of the leading causes of fatalities in the industry,” according to the American Disposal Services and the American Recycling Center. “Distracted or careless drivers zooming around a truck to get to their destination quickly, or simply not paying attention and hitting a worker loading materials into the back of a truck, are incidents all too common in the industry.”
During their runs, some service workers hold onto the side of the truck, which can put them in harm’s way in stop and go traffic. Then at each stop along the assigned route, the worker exits the vehicle and grabs the bin and empties it into the bed of the truck. Nationwide during 2015, 33 employees who dealt with trash and recyclable materials were killed, compared to 27 workers in 2014, according to the statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Of the 33 deaths, 24 were from the private sector, and nine were from the public sector.” As of midnight, drivers in Maryland are now required to change lanes or slow down when sanitation trucks are near. Maryland joins 19 other states, including Virginia, in enacting some type of law to help protect solid waste workers on the job. A violation of the Move Over law is a misdemeanor.
“Refuse and recyclable material collection is the fifth most dangerous job in the country, and transportation incidents are the cause of 40 percent of the injuries and fatalities in the industry,” said John B. Townsend II, Manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Now these workers are also protected by the move over law. That is of paramount importance, since they, along with other service truck drivers, face the same dangers as first responders and tow truck operators rescuing others on the side of the road.”
Maryland’s Move Over law requires drivers approaching (from the rear) one of these vehicles with red, yellow or amber flashing lights that is stopped, standing or parked along the highway to, when possible, move over a lane. This movement should only be done if another lane in the same direction is available and the move can be made safely and without impeding other traffic. If the driver is unable to make a lane change, the law requires drivers to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing conditions while passing the emergency or service vehicles. The Maryland State Highway Administration has lost members of its work family to drivers who steered into work areas.
“MDOT SHA is pleased that the Move over Law now protects MDOT service vehicles and other service and utility vehicles with amber lights,” said MDOT SHA Administrator Gregory Slater. “Safety is our number one priority. Our employees work alongside active roadways, daily and with every glance away from the road, each time a driver reads a text message, answers a phone call, or fails to move over their safety is jeopardized. Please move over to help ensure a safer work environment for our employees.”
In 2015, the Fairfax County Government launched an awareness campaign about the state’s new “Slow Down to Get around Law,” which was signed into law by then Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. The Virginia “Slow Down to Get around Law” carries a penalty of up to $250 and requires “drivers to reduce their speed to at least 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit and pass at least two feet to the left of any stationary vehicle that is collecting trash or recycling.”
Despite having the laws, unfortunately, law enforcement officers, tow truck operators and others continue to be killed as they conduct business on the roadways. Motor vehicle-related incidents are consistently the leading cause of work-related fatalities in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation-related incidents remained the most common fatal occupational event in 2016, accounting for 40 percent (2,083).
“The slow down and move over movement is personal to the people of Laurel. In January of 2017, we lost a member of our Department of Public Works family, when Marcus Colbert was struck by a motorist who hit a parked car and then swerved into him behind the trash truck he was working on,” said Laurel Mayor Craig A. Moe. “This legislation raises public awareness and provides a consistent message to motorists to pay attention to their surroundings to MOVE OVER and SLOW DOWN to allow workers on our roadways to successfully complete their assignments and to return to their families at the end of the work day.”
“Being struck by a motorist is a leading cause of death for waste and recycling collection employees,” cautions AAA Mid-Atlantic. Yet 71 percent of Americans have not heard of move over laws, according to a national poll by Mason Dixon Polling & Research. As of September 10, 2018, the total number of citations issued to violators of the move over law since its inception on October 1, 2010 were 19,620 (warnings issued 64,345). This year alone 1,269 citations have been written and 5,273 warnings issued.
“The intent of the move over law is to provide an extra barrier of safety for police officers, fire fighters, emergency rescue personnel, tow service operators and all of our public safety personnel working along Maryland roads,” said Captain Dan Pickett, Commander of the Washington Metro Troop for the Maryland State Police. “It is imperative that drivers stay alert for these types of situations and move over, if possible, or slow down as they pass by the traffic stop or incident scene.”
The new law means AAA battery truck drivers will also be afforded protections, as they assist motorists with disabled vehicles. From the onset, AAA Mid-Atlantic was a proud advocate of this law.
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