Tracy Trott, Colonel, Tennessee Highway Patrol and IACP State and Provincial Police Division
Colonel Trott poses for a #MoveOver photo.
IACP staff demonstrate support for the #MoveOver campaign.
Clayton Valdes, son of Trooper Richard, displays his #MoveOver sign in honor of his mother.
Massachusetts State Police support the #MoveOver campaign.
California Highway Patrol reminds people to #MoveOver.
Kansas Highway Patrol supports the #MoveOver campaign.
This future Georgia State Patrol trooper is serious about the #MoveOver campaign.
For more information about the national movement and state-specific Move Over laws, visit the Move Over, America website at www.moveoveramerica.com.
aw enforcement officials know that Move Over laws outline how motorists should respond when confronted by emergency vehicles that are traveling in the same direction and displaying flashing lights. Law enforcement officials also know that, in most states, these situations require that the driver vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle if it is safe and possible to do so; slow to a speed safe for weather, road, and traffic conditions; or slow to a fixed speed below the limit as defined by local law.1
These basics about Move Over laws are well-known by law enforcement; however, the general public’s lack of awareness regarding such legislation has exposed a great vulnerability in officer safety. In response to this risk, and in the wake of numerous traffic-related deaths of first responders, U.S. law enforcement agencies, led by the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP), have begun a nationwide campaign to increase public education regarding Move Over laws.
A Need for Public Awareness
Since 2002, 49 states have passed Move Over laws. However, according to a poll sponsored by the National Safety Commission, 71 percent of U.S. residents are unaware that such legislation was passed within their states.2 This same poll found that 90 percent believe that traffic stops and roadside emergencies are dangerous for first responders, and 86 percent support a nationwide adoption of Move Over laws. Overall, these findings highlight that although there is a significant void in education about Move Over laws, there is an abundance of national support for such legislation.
In response to these statistics, the National Safety Commission, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the National Association of Police Organizations established a partnership to educate the public about Move Over laws in an effort to better protect emergency personnel along U.S. roadsides. However, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, from 2004 through 2013, there had still been 136 fallen officers struck by vehicles.3
THP trooper Joey Lindsay asserts that the public cannot continue to be ignorant of their states’ Move Over laws. In July 2013, Trooper Lindsay fell victim to a Move Over violation when a truck smashed into his cruiser, causing the officer to break his neck. He states,
It is so frustrating because people are driving along, they can clearly get over, and they won’t. Of course, I’ll jump in my cruiser and run them down and cite them for it. Half the time they will say they are not aware there was such a law. Whether they are lying or not, who is to say? Ignorance of the law is not a defense. We are doing everything we can to educate people and inform them so we can be safe and the motoring public can be safe, too.4
#MoveOver Goes Viral
Since 2010, traffic-related incidences of first responder injury or death have continued to rise. Officials report that traffic fatalities involving law enforcement officers in the United States have increased 33 percent as compared to last year.5 This growing risk proves that Move Over laws are critical for officer safety. In fact, the penalty for violation of this law is steeper than a fine or a stint in jail since noncompliance can, and sometimes does, end in tragedy. So, for law enforcement officers, firefighters, utility workers, and other emergency personnel, Move Over is personal.
Recently, calamity struck the heart of the public safety community twice when a pair of promising young law enforcement professionals were killed in the line of duty due to apparent Move Over violations. On May 3, 2014, Florida Highway Patrol Master Trooper Chelsea Richard, 30, was struck and killed by a vehicle while investigating a crash on Interstate 75. Tow truck driver John Duggan—a member of a profession the Move Over law was also designed to protect—and pedestrian George Phillips also died. Their memories must be honored as well.
Just one week later, on May 10, 2014, Metro Nashville Police Officer Michael Petrina, 25, was on the scene of a previous crash on Interstate 65 when he was struck by a motorhome. He died on the scene.
Yes, Move Over is personal.
These tragedies served as a catalyst for the THP to increase its public awareness efforts about the fatal consequences of not following Move Over legislation. Colonel Tracy Trott of the THP launched a #MoveOver initiative on Twitter during National Police Week. The goal was to address this public safety challenge head-on, raise citizen awareness, and, hopefully, prevent another senseless tragedy on U.S. roadways.
On May 12, 2014, Colonel Trott published his first tweet on the matter, saying, “For my troopers & law enforcement in TN & across the world, please #MoveOver.” What happened next surpassed any of the colonel’s expectations.
That tweet was favorited and retweeted by countless concerned citizens; law enforcement agencies around the United States and as far as Ontario, Canada; elected officials; educators; and others too numerous to name. With the help of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (@TheIACP), the initiative quickly spread to law enforcement leaders across the globe and the #MoveOver movement was born. THP’s awareness efforts sparked unprecedented interest, prompting law enforcement agencies across the United States to begin a collaborative social media push to spread the message about Move Over laws. States such as North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio stepped up enforcement and awareness efforts on their roadways, and many other states and people joined the campaign through social media. As a result, the support for the Move Over campaign was overwhelming, with hundreds of people posting pictures of themselves holding signs with the hashtag #MoveOver to Twitter and Facebook.
The height of the campaign’s success occurred the week immediately following Colonel Trott’s original post. From May 13 to May 20, 2014, the #MoveOver hashtag was tweeted, retweeted, and replied to, over 11,000 times by 5,520 different contributors. These contributors varied greatly by age and profession and included law enforcement agencies and officers, fire departments, EMTs and paramedics, sports teams, legislators, news and radio stations, and the public. Families and friends of law enforcement officers also chimed in, many posing with signs urging drivers to #MoveOver to ensure that their loved ones come home safely from their shifts.
#MoveOver Campaign – Social Media Activity
Overall, from May 13 to May 20, 2014, #MoveOver-related tweets reached over 4.8 million Twitter accounts. This level of exposure generated a total of 29.1 million impressions about the #MoveOver campaign, meaning that the message was delivered to 29.1 million Twitter streams. This enormous response was sudden and unexpected and was a welcome surprise for a cause so important for officer safety. Naturally, the families of first responders were some of the first to participate, but the movement resonated with people of all professions and backgrounds. Those who did not have access to Twitter started sending pictures to THP’s Facebook page. The general public learned about the movement and needed their voices to be heard. They were just as emotionally invested as the first responders were.
Yes, Move Over is personal.
By the end of the first day, Colonel Trott had gained nearly 300 new Twitter followers; by the end of the week the Twitter traffic related to the #MoveOver movement accounted for more than 5 million contacts.
It was a humbling experience, and a testament to the power of social media. But #Move Over is more than a hashtag—it should be a way of life for any motorist.
Move Over Training Initiatives
Around the same time, the Move Over movement was not just occurring in cyberspace. The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) had taken the lead of the U.S. state agencies that had joined the campaign. This cause was especially important to the TDOT, an organization that is immensely aware of the implications of a Move Over violation. After all, over 100 highway workers are killed every year in secondary crashes, and it was a TDOT help truck operator who was on the scene with Officer Petrina on that fateful day.
In addition to the nationwide call for motorists to Move Over, the TDOT and THP’s parent agency, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, have partnered to build the Traffic Incident Management training facility. This is to become the United States’ first facility that will allow emergency responders to simulate a variety of crashes and train responders on safe and efficient clearance techniques. Coupling the #MoveOver public awareness campaign with training in traffic incident management is likely to drastically improve officer safety in first responder situations. Traffic incident management programs provide tools and guidance to officers to improve transportation network efficiency and responder safety at any time of day, during a variety of situations such as traffic crashes, disasters and emergency transportation operations, and planned special events (PSE). Preparation for all types of situations is the key to making traffic incidents as safe as possible for everyone involved—law enforcement officers, medical personnel, and all nearby motorists and pedestrians.
The TDOT and Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security broke ground on the facility just days before the #MoveOver social media movement began. In conjunction with the Move Over law, this facility—complete with its own section of an interstate and a portion of a two-lane highway—will help improve the safety of motorists and emergency responders.
What’s Next for the Move Over Campaign?
While it is encouraging to experience firsthand the implementation of new training initiatives and a viral #MoveOver social media movement, the safety of law enforcement officers and emergency responders still hangs in the balance. Law enforcement officers and those who support them must not become complacent. To most drivers, the roadways are a means of travel from point A to point B. Those in law enforcement know differently.
The roads represent the offices of many in the public safety community. Each one of those individuals requires and pleads for the space to do the job and to do it well. That’s why the #MoveOver Twitter movement touched so many lives in the field. It represented a chance to have a voice and to speak for those people like Trooper Chelsea Richard who never had the opportunity. In one very powerful tweet, Trooper Richard’s son Clayton Valdes is seen holding the sign “#Move Over … I miss my mommy” in his mother’s honor.
So, for Trooper Chelsea Richard and Officer Michael Petrina and John Duggan and George Phillips and for all of those who have lost their lives senselessly on the roadways … Move Over.
It’s personal. ♦
1“Move Over Law,” United States, AAA/CAA Digest of Motor Laws, 2012, http://drivinglaws.aaa.com/laws/move-over-law (accessed June 4, 2014).
2“National Campaign Launches Effort Educating Drivers to ‘Move Over’ and Protect Officers on Roadways;” Move Over, America, July 2, 2007, press release, http://www.moveoveramerica.com/Move-Over-Law-Protect-Officers.html (accessed June 4, 2014).
3“Causes of Law Enforcement Deaths,” Officer Fatality Data, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, April 14, 2014, http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/causes.html (accessed June 4, 2014).
4Jim Matheny, “Injured THP Troopers Drive Home #MoveOver Message,” WBIR-Knoxville, Gannett Company, Inc., May 13, 2014, http://www.wbir.com/story/news/local/2014/05/13/move-over-thp-lindsay-russell/9055373 (accessed June 4, 2014).
5“Preliminary 2014 Fatality Statistics,” Officer Fatality Data, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, April 14, 2014, http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data (accessed June 4, 2014).
|Yes, It’s Personal|
In the first half of 2014, the law enforcement community lost four members to drivers who did not follow Move Over laws.In Memoriam
Special Deputy Marshal Frank McKnightSobering Numbers
U.S. Marshals Service
Police Officer Michael A. Petrina
Metro Nashville, Tennessee, Police Department
Trooper Chelsea Richard
Florida Highway Patrol
Master Sergeant John Collum
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks
- More police officers are killed by traffic crashes than by any other line-of-duty cause of death. More than one-fourth of those killed are struck by passing vehicles while they work outside their patrol cars.*
- In 2013, 11 officers were struck and killed by vehicles.†
- In less than a year, 29 Colorado state troopers were struck by passing vehicles and one-fourth of all of Colorado State Patrol’s fallen heroes were taken by a driver that did not move over.‡
- Across the United States, crashes that could have been prevented by drivers moving over kill an average of 1 tow truck driver every 6 days; 23 highway workers and 1 law enforcement officer every month; and 5 firefighters every year.§
- From 2004 to 2012, the Tennessee Highway Patrol recorded 9,317 citations for Move Over violations.¶
* Georgia’s Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Move Over It’s the Law, http://www.gahighwaysafety.org/fullpanel/uploads/files/moveoverlaw2012.pdf (accessed June 19, 2014).
† National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, “Causes of Law Enforcement Deaths,” http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/causes.html (accessed June 19, 2014).
‡ April Nowicki, “Authorities Urge Colorado Drivers to Slow Down, Move Over after 29 State Troopers Hit in Last Year: Citations Issued for Not Moving Over,” ABC 7News Denver, http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/authorities-urge-colorado-drivers-to-slow-down-move-over-after-29-state-troopers-hit-in-last-year02132014; “1/4 of Our Fallen Heroes Were Taken by a Driver That Did Not #MoveOver and We Do Not Want to Add Any More,” @CSP_News, May 16, 2014, https://twitter.com/CSP_News/status/467436661979107329 (accessed June 19, 2014).
§ Linda Gorman, “‘Move Over’ Law Protects Motorists, Roadside
Personnel,” ADOT (blog), http://adotblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Move%20Over%20Law (accessed June 19, 2014).
¶ Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, “TN Highway Patrol (THP) Activity Enforcement,” THP—Issued Move Over Citations, 2004 – 2012, table, http://www.tn.gov/safety/stats/THP_Activity/MoveOverLaw/THP_Move_Over_Citations_by_County.pdf (accessed June 19, 2014).
Please cite as:
Tracy Trott, “Move Over Initiative,” The Police Chief 81 (July 2014): 28–30.