Tougher 'Move Over' bill passes unanimously in Pa. Senate
The bill would assign license points and double fines for failing to slow down or move over for first responders and other workers
The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The state Senate is hoping that by imposing stiffer penalties for ignoring the rules of the road when approaching an emergency scene or disabled vehicle along the road will help lessen the danger for tow truck operators and emergency crews responding to those calls.
By a 49-0 vote, the Senate on Tuesday passed legislation that rebrands the state’s “Steer Clear” law enacted in 2017 to the “Move Over” law. It would assign points to a motorist’s license as well as doubles the current fines for those found failing to move over to a non-adjacent lane when approaching an emergency response area, or if that’s not possible, slowing to at least 20 mph below the speed limit.
“This is a legislation that will save lives," said Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin County, prior to the Senate vote.
According to the Pennsylvania State Police, he said 7,075 citations issued this past year for “Steer Clear” violations and 3,204 warnings.
“Sadly, already this year we’ve already lost 35 first responders along the highways and roadsides, incidents that I believe are avoidable,” Mastriano said. “This figure includes 17 tow operators and transportation department workers, 12 law enforcement officers, three fire and EMS, and a few others. It is an appropriate and necessary action that we take. It’s time for Pennsylvania to lead the way and our General Assembly to go forth and protect our first responders.”
The bill would assign two points to a person’s license who do not comply with those rules and raises the fines to $200 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second and $2,000 for the third and subsequent offenses. It also would require the state Department of Transportation to periodically educate the public about the proposed law.
Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland County, who sponsored the bill, joined with Mastriano and others at a news conference earlier this month to urge passage of the measure. The event featured first responders and others who shared their personal stories that spoke to the need for increasing the penalties and driver education awareness of what to do in these situations.
Among those who spoke at that event outside the Capitol was tow truck operator Brian Shockey of Waynesboro. He was struck by a passing motorist as he was walking back to get into this truck after loading a disabled vehicle two days after Christmas in 2018.
Shockey, who was left unconscious lying on the roadway, suffered broken legs, a broken wrist, elbow, and ribs among other injuries. He said he doesn’t remember much about that day but said it has impacted his life, making it hard for him to coach youth football and play with his kids. He said his medical bills are now in excess of $500,000 while the woman whose vehicle struck him was given an under $500 fine.
“It’s been a long, long hard recovery. I’m still not recovered,” Shockey said.
In July, 29-year-old tow truck driver Tyler Laudenslager of Halifax was killed while responding to a call when a vehicle traveling on I-78 veered right, causing it to rear-end a commercial vehicle, which hit Laudenslager’s truck, and a second heavy-duty tow truck. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin County, called the Senate action a “solemn remembrance of Tyler and all of the other fallen heroes as well as those gravely injured in preventable tragedies."
He said enhancing penalties will “create strong deterrence against repeat offenders while educating all Pennsylvania drivers about the need to move over when you see emergency vehicle with lights or flashers on the side of the roadway.”
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
©2020 The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.)