Louisiana in recent weeks rolled out nearly three dozen road signs across the state, setting off a campaign to remind motorists of an old, but little-known law designed to protect people who pull their vehicles over to the shoulder of a state road while in distress.
The law requires motorists to change lanes or slow down when passing any vehicle — not just a police cruiser or fire truck — that is making use of its emergency or hazard lights while parked on the shoulder of a state roadway.
The law was enacted in 1962, then amended in 2008 to include nonemergency vehicles, Sgt. Nick Manale, a State Police spokesman, said.
“Today is about saving lives,” State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said Monday at a news conference announcing the “Move Over” campaign. Edmonson added later, “This is for the public,” stressing the law’s inclusion of nonemergency vehicles, despite the wording on the road signs that only mentions changing lanes for emergency vehicles, not necessarily others.
Edmonson said troopers are “aggressively enforcing” the law, which carries a fine of up to $200 upon conviction of a violation.
Since the law went into effect, troopers have issued slightly more than 1,000 citations for violations of the law, Manale said, which amounts to roughly 20 per year.
The state Department of Transportation and Development paid for the signs. Although the agency could not provide the exact cost for the installation project, an agency spokeswoman said the materials for each of the 34 signs ranged in cost from $200 to $350 per sign.
The ever-present need to remind drivers to be safe, cautious and law-abiding spurred the installation of the new signs, Edmonson said.
In addition, he said, too many people — law enforcers and regular citizens alike — die in crashes caused by drivers who venture too close to vehicles parked along road shoulders. In particular, Edmonson referenced two troopers, Hung Le and Robert Harrison, who were involved in on-duty crashes while parked on the shoulder of an interstate.
Le died in 1998 from injuries he suffered after a van rear-ended his police unit, which was parked near a construction zone on Interstate 55 between Ponchatoula and Manchac. Harris was seriously injured in 2006 while making a traffic stop on Interstate 10 near Siegen Lane in East Baton Rouge Parish.
When asked about how many crashes occur statewide because of drivers not adhering to the “move over” law, Edmonson said, “We’re seeing far too many of them.”
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