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AAA, state officials encourage roadside safety

AAA officials are campaigning to remind motorists to recognize Georgia's Move-Over Law, and other safety precautions, in an effort to protect everyone on the state's highways and byways — from stranded motorists to emergency response vehicles.

"It is critical to remind everyone how important it is to make sure they take basic safety precautions if they break down on the roadside," said Joanna Newton, spokeswoman for AAA Auto Club South. "It's dangerous for anyone to be standing on the roadside with a disabled vehicle, regardless of if you are a trained professional with safety equipment or a family with kids waiting for help to arrive."

Since 1999, more than 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed in situations where drivers failed to abide Move-Over laws, said Newton, citing Move Over America, a national campaign of the National Safety Commission, the National Sheriffs' Association and the National Association of Police Organizations.

The Move-Over Law requires drivers to move over one lane if possible whenever an emergency vehicle of any kind is working on the side of the road displaying flashing blue, red, yellow or white emergency lights, said Bob Dallas, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS).

"Failure for drivers to simply move over a lane can have killer consequences for our hometown police officers working alongside our highways," said Dallas.

The director added the law states that, if traffic is too congested to move over safely and there is no room to move over, drivers must slow down, below the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop.

Dallas noted that just last October a deputy was struck and killed a motorist in violation of the Move-Over Law.

Oconee County Deputy David Gilstrap was struck and killed outside his patrol car in what investigators ruled a Move-Over Law violation, said Dallas, noting the deputy was wearing a reflective vest while directing early morning traffic outside a primary school.

Authorities also reported a Highway Emergency Response Operator (H.E.R.O.) was killed in January, and another was seriously injured just last month, both on different sections of Interstate 85 in metro Atlanta.

A recent survey from AAA's Consumer Pulse revealed that, when asked why they did not move over a lane in the past, 83 percent of motorists said they could not move over safely and 32 percent said they noticed the vehicle too late.

Newton acknowledged, while the majority of survey respondents (95 percent) said they are concerned about the safety of other motorists stranded on the side of the road, only half think other motorists are concerned about their safety.

The AAA spokeswoman offered the following safety tips for motorists who might find themselves broken down on the side of the road.

Newton recommends the following: motorists should pull off to the right side of the road onto the shoulder where they are not in danger of getting struck oncoming traffic; turn on your hazard lights; if you are stranded on the roadway and are concerned for your safety, call the police so they can send a police officer to manage traffic, and if you need to exit your car, wait for help as far away from the car and traffic as possible.

To learn more about highway safety, visit the Governor's Office of Highway Safety web site at www.gohs.state.ga.us.