Of 154 police officers killed nationwide in the line of duty last year, 73 died in traffic accidents, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Ten were struck during traffic stops. The Christian Science Monitor says that such incidents and thousands of close calls on the roadways have prompted 37 states to enact “move-over laws” that penalize drivers if they don’t make room or slow down when emergency vehicles with flashing lights are parked on the road, according to policedriving.com.
Fines can be as high as $1,000 in some states. At least three–Florida, Georgia and North Carolina–have raised penalties this year, making it a felony with the possibility of jail time if a serious injury results from such an accident. In the past, some judges have thrown out cases when motorists said they simply didn’t know such a law was on the books. People failing to yield for stopped emergency vehicles “has now become a situation where laws have to come in and be more vigorously enforced, because drivers have lost control over what had been an informal normative order,” says sociologist Michael Kearl of San Antonio’s Trinity University. In several states, educational campaigns promoting the move-over laws focus on common-sense driving.