Our Opinion: In an emergency, imprudence draws penalties

Add emergency zones to work zones and school zones as designated public safety areas.

Among new laws that went into effect Wednesday is a statute creating added penalties for violations in areas where emergency personnel — law enforcement officers, firefighter, emergency medical technicians — are responding.

Speeding and passing violations in an emergency area would be punishable by a $250 fine in addition to existing penalties.

The law also creates the crime of endangering an emergency responder. Violations include speeding by at least 15 mph, using a lane not designated for traffic or intentionally hitting a traffic barrel. Fines range from up to $1,000 if no one is injured to $10,000 if an emergency responder is killed.

The Missouri Highway Patrol reports one law enforcement officer, two highway workers and two other traffic workers have been hit by motorists this year. In 2012, more than three dozen people were injured, including nine law officers and 18 other emergency personnel.

State Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, said during legislative debate: “The intent (of the new law) is to discourage imprudent behavior in these areas when emergency personnel are focused on an incident and not on passing traffic.”

Any motorist who has been forced to stop on the shoulder of a highway has experienced the dual dilemma of attending to a problem in dangerous proximity to high-speed traffic.

Emergency responders have a job to do aiding accident victims and troubled motorists, as well as clearing wreckage, extinguishing fires and cleaning up spills.

The more quickly and safely they can do their jobs, the sooner the scene can be cleared and normal traffic flow can resume.

Common sense dictates motorists be attentive and obey the laws, particularly in school, work and emergency zones.

The penalty for not using common sense just went up.

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