Lieutenant Sean Fullerton of the Exeter Township Police Department joined forces with the Highway Safety Network and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation this week to address the critical issue of roadside responder safety through an educational and enforcement initiative for the Move Over Law in Pennsylvania.
Year after year, incidents involving roadside responders being hit or killed have continued to rise, primarily due to a lack of awareness about the Move Over Law. Lieutenant Fullerton expressed the urgency of understanding this law and its significance in safeguarding lives. Since 2018, the state has witnessed the tragic loss of 89 police officers and 88 tow truck drivers.
Speaking to the press Thursday morning near an active enforcement detail on Route 422, Lieutenant Fullerton emphasized the importance of the law: “This is dangerous business out working on these highways, so today we’re reminding motorists: you have to either move over and change lanes if possible, and if you cannot, you must slow down to pass that emergency scene safely.”
The campaign’s goal is to reduce the number of incidents involving roadside responders, ultimately lowering fatalities. Lieutenant Fullerton stressed that this can only be achieved through the collaboration of local and state governments, legislators, and the motoring public.
Lieutenant Fullerton also clarified what constitutes an emergency scene, stating that the law applies when approaching any emergency vehicle with activated lights or flares, including police cars, fire trucks, tow trucks, and even disabled vehicles with hazard lights on. Drivers are required to change lanes or slow down when encountering these situations.
Debra Laudenslager, who tragically lost her son in a roadside incident, shared her heartbreaking story. Tyler, a tow truck operator, was killed on I-78 in Bethel Township in 2020 when an impaired driver failed to move over for an emergency response scene. Debra has since been dedicated to spreading awareness about the Move Over Law, urging motorists to slow down and move over for the safety of responders and fellow drivers.
“Tyler left behind a 10 month old little girl and a young wife. Ever since then I have been out here trying to spread the slowdown, move over, message anywhere I can go” she said. “I just pray that everybody continues to slow down, move over, don’t drive distracted, and please pay attention when you’re passing an emergency response.”
Ed Gouker, Director of Automotive Services for AAA of Berks County, addressed the progress and challenges of the campaign. While there has been some improvement in compliance, he expressed disappointment in those who still fail to move over in a timely manner, especially when approaching tow trucks. Gouker stressed the importance of maintaining a clear path for responders to work safely.
“When you’re sitting there looking at the rearview mirror and you see people in the left lane moving to the right lane before they get to the tow truck, that’s the ones that really disappoint” he said.
“It’s not a good feeling to be out there and you’re trying to hurry, but you’re also trying to look at the oncoming traffic and be ready to jump out of the way if we need to.”
The Move Over Law campaign in Pennsylvania aims to protect the lives of roadside responders and drivers alike. It underscores the critical need for motorists to be aware of and adhere to the law, ensuring a safer environment for all on the state’s highways.
Debra Laudenslager’s poignant message serves as a reminder that behind every roadside tragedy, there are real people whose lives are forever affected. The hope is that with continued education and enforcement, Pennsylvania can make its roads safer for everyone.