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Wreck shows need for drivers to follow move over law

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Posted at 8:51 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 00:42:06-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The Colorado State Patrol wants more drivers to be alert behind the wheel and to move over for emergency vehicles. On Wednesday, the agency shared a dashboard camera video of a wreck that happened during a traffic stop in Adams County.

Colorado law requires drivers to slow down and move over for roadside emergencies. Three people suffered minor injuries in the crash captured in the video. The driver was cited for careless driving.

Master Trooper Gary Cutler, Public Information Officer for the Colorado State Patrol, said that wrecks are the biggest risk troopers face on the job.

"Our biggest fear is being hit by a vehicle, or somebody else being hit by it," he said. "Being shot is kind of secondary to it because we're around that traffic every day all around us and a lot of things happen, and we've seen it happen, we cover it."

In 2020, Colorado lawmakers passed the Move Over for Cody Act in memory of Trooper Cody Donahue who was killed in 2016 after being struck during a traffic stop. The law requires motorists to change lanes or reduce their speed to at least 20 miles per hour below the posted limit whenever passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road.

"That's the minimum of what you should be doing," Cutler said. "If the situation requires you to slow down even more, then you need to do that as well."

Drivers who fail to move over or reduce their speed can be faulted for careless driving, a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense that is punishable by a jail sentence of up to 90 days or a fine of $300.

Master Trooper Cutler explained that speeding and distracted driving frequently lead to serious accidents on Colorado roadways, including wrecks that occur during traffic stops.

"Those two combined are what gives us the problems on these kinds of things because it takes you longer to slow down, and if you're not paying attention, you have to look up, that takes a long time."

The Move over for Cody law applies to all roadside emergencies including tow truck operators assisting motorists. In September, AAA published research that found more than 1,600 people had been struck and killed while outside of a disabled vehicle since 2015.

"When you look at towing on it's own, per research from AAA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is 15 times more dangerous than every other private industry combine to the extent that we are losing folks on the roadside very regularly," said Skyler McKinley, a spokesman for AAA Colorado.

A tow truck driver for AAA was struck and killed in I-25 near Castle Rock last year.

"Slow down and move over. It's really simple to do and the law acknowledges that it might not always be safe to move over which is why slowing down is such a component because speed is what can turn a very, very dangerous crash into a less dangerous one or give you the reaction time to avoid a crash altogether," McKinley said.

Master Trooper Cutler also explained that the traffic stop on the left shoulder of the road is considered safe. He said that trying to get a driver to move to the right shoulder when they've already stopped on the left can be even more dangerous.

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