When emergency responders go to the scene of a wreck, fire, crime or other emergency, seconds can be the difference between a home that has smoke damage and a home that is destroyed. It can be the difference between a preventing a crime or dealing with the results. It can also be the difference between life and death.
That's why, during this second annual national Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, we remind our readers to pull over for vehicles with flashing lights. Not just this week, but always.
MoDOT's emergency response crews work to keep our state's transportation system moving every day. In an average month, MoDOT emergency crews respond to 5,000 traffic incidents.
"MoDOT and its partners in law enforcement, fire, EMS and the tow industry work together to clear incidents but we need the help of motorists," said MoDOT Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger in a news release. "Move over when you see responders on the road and give them extra space to work. Please respect the lives of responders who safeguard you when you are in a crash."
Missouri's Move Over law requires drivers to change lanes when approaching MoDOT vehicles, law enforcement vehicles and any other emergency vehicle with lights flashing. If drivers can't change lanes safely, they must slow down as they pass the emergency vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported a 7.2 percent increase in roadway fatalities in 2015 over the previous year. In 2016, another 6 percent jump was reported. Traffic incidents are the number one cause of death for police officers and EMS responders nationwide.
"When you see lights, vests, reflectors, move over and slow down. Give us room to work," Hassinger said. "We've got your back. Do you have ours?"
Pulling over for emergency vehicles with their lights on ensures that they can respond as quickly as possible while doing their jobs.
Don't do it just because it's the law, but because it's the right thing to do. It's courteous, but even more importantly, it could save a life.