REGION — You’ve heard it before – but it bears repeating, particularly during Crash Responder Safety Week November 14-18, when the Maine Department of Public Safety again reminds all Drivers to Slow Down and Move Over. “It’s more than just the law, it is also common sense and courtesy to help ensure our first responders are safe to perform their jobs on our roads and highways,” said Lauren Stewart, director of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

Raising awareness during this safety week affords a unique opportunity to make a difference individually and jointly for roadway safety during traffic incidents. Traffic Incident Management (TIM) specialists across the nation come together this week by teaching the motoring public about their common goal and responsibility for safe, quick roadway clearance.

Each time a police officer is pulled onto the shoulder or out of their car on or near the roadway, they risk being struck by a passing driver. Crashes involving motor vehicles are the number one killer of police officers on state roads and highways. The same is true for all TIM first responders, including fire, EMS, and tow truck operators when they are working at the scene of a crash or emergency on the side of the roadway.

“I believe, if you have been towing long enough, every one that tows on a highway can share a scary near miss story. Until you have loaded a vehicle on the white line of a highway. people just don’t understand the danger we are in out there,” said Scott Hatch, VP of Maine Towing and Recovery Association.

Maine State Police Lt. Colonel Brian Scott said, “Police officers, emergency medical service providers, firefighters, tow truck operators and highway workers are struck and killed or seriously injured as they work on our roadways. They also face far too many close calls on the highways just trying to keep our roads safe for others. They should not have to pay with their lives for the deadly mistakes made by careless drivers. Please follow the law, move over or slow down and give these essential workers room to work.”

“As first responders it’s our responsibility to focus on the safety and welfare of everyone in society. While we are doing this, so often members of society fail to pay attention to our safety and put our lives at risk,” said Sgt. Dan Hanson of The Maine State Police. “I have been struck multiple times by drivers who were being unsafe and thankfully I am still here to keep doing my part to improve the safety of everyone along our roads and highways. It’s a simple ask to just slow down and move over when you see our lights. Please help us keep our roads and highways safe by doing your part to keep us safe.”

Emergency vehicles include police cruisers, ambulances, fire trucks, tow trucks, wreckers, and highway safety vehicles, such as those used by DOT, MTA, and AAA.

“On a regular basis, EMS clinicians witness first-hand, drivers who fail to move over or even slow down while they are on the side of the roadway caring for persons in need,” said Emergency Medical Services Director J. Sam Hurley. “Unfortunately, failure to yield, competing priorities/distracted driving (e.g., cell phone usage), and inquisitive minds (i.e., rubber necking) lead to extremely dangerous scenes on our roadways that put the first responders and other motorists at risk. It’s important to remember to Slow Down, Move Over and focus on navigating the roadway.”

The States Fire Service continues to witness close calls when operating at accident scenes. Many Fire Chief’s credit apparatus placement with avoiding a more tragic event as drivers, not paying attention for one reason or another, react to the apparatus positioned to provide protection to crews operating at the scene. When drivers see the lights of emergency vehicles operating at an accident scene, they need to react accordingly and slow down and move over.

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