SAN ANTONIO – Local first responders are using the recent injuries and deaths of emergency personnel as a reminder of the importance of the Move Over/Slow Down Law.
The law requires drivers who see emergency vehicles working a scene ahead of them to move over one lane to give crews space and to slow down to 20 mph under the posted speed limit.
Castle Hills Police Chief Johnny Siemens knows the importance of the law. In June, one person was killed and two of his officers were among several injured when a suspected drunken driver plowed into a crash scene along Loop 410. He said these types of scenes are all too common for emergency crews.
“We've all had officers that were either, again, a close call or had been struck,” Siemens said. “The mirror catches you on occasion while you're at the traffic stop that you can't compete. You are not going to win a fight with a 3,000- to 5,000- (pound) piece of steel.”
In July, Kendall County Deputy Carlos Ramirez and his partner were hit by a driver during a traffic stop. Ramirez was killed.
In late July, a Boerne police officer was struck and injured while directing traffic. In early October, a San Antonio police officer was seriously hurt while directing traffic along I-35. And on Tuesday, San Antonio firefighter Greg Garza was among a group of firefighters who responded to a call for an electrical problem at a hotel. He stumbled while exiting a fire apparatus and was hit by a van and killed, according to Fire Chief Charles Hood.
The Texas Department of Public Safety said 2018 numbers show more than 41,000 warnings and citations were given to motorists who failed to move over and slow down. So far this year, more than 17,300 warnings and citations have been handed out.
In a statement, DPS asked that drivers do their part to abide by the law:
“Our Highway Patrol Troopers and other officers risk their lives every day for the people of Texas, and their safety is particularly vulnerable while working on the side of the road, where the slightest mistake by a passing motorist can end in tragedy.”
Siemens said an average traffic stop takes about six minutes and it’s a dangerous time for officers because they are exposed to drivers who may be under the influence or distracted, rubberneckers who cause crashes and speeders.
“Some of these motorists can sneak up on you, and … you're not in a position to win that fight,” he said.
The law applies to law enforcement, ambulances, fire crews and tow truck personnel.