Efforts to increase safety on roadways are shaping up as a major topic of conversation in statehouses throughout the country during the next several months. While legislation addressing the use of text messaging devices and tougher penalties for drunken drivers will grab much of the attention, other safety-related initiatives include protecting emergency personnel during roadside stops.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than 40 states have implemented similar safety zone rules. Lawmakers in Maryland and Washington state have already taken steps to make sure the issue is addressed this year.
In Maryland, Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Mid Shore, is looking to end his state’s distinction as being one of the few remaining holdouts from states that require drivers to make room for emergency workers and law enforcement officers.
Colburn’s bill would require drivers to maintain a safe distance and reduce speed before passing emergency vehicles parked by the road with their lights flashing.
The so-called “move over” initiative – SB49 – would require drivers to merge into a lane farther away from emergency vehicles, if practical. On two-lane highways, drivers would have been required to slow to a speed “that is sufficient to ensure the safety” of emergency personnel, including police.
While Washington state already requires drivers to make room for certain emergency, roadside assistance, or police vehicles, lawmakers in both chambers of the statehouse have attached their names to legislation that would bolster the rule.
The bills – HB2464 and SB6231 – define “emergency zones.” Traveling within 200 feet of affected emergency vehicles would be in the zone.
Speeding fines in these protected areas would be double. Violators could also face charges of reckless endangerment of emergency workers and loss of driving privileges for 60 days.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Maryland, click here. To view other legislative activities of interest for Washington, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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