WILLMAR -- The late-summer wave of the Safe & Sober traffic safety campaign begins Thursday in Kandiyohi County with specialized enforcement of the Ted Foss "Move Over Law."
Kandiyohi County sheriff's deputies and Willmar police officers will work together to check motorists' compliance with the statute which was written to try to keep emergency responders safer while they are performing duties on the roadside.
The law is named for Minnesota State Patrol Corporal Ted Foss, who was killed in 2000 when he, his patrol car, and the vehicle he had stopped were hit by a passing semi tractor-trailer on Interstate 90.
Minnesota's law now requires that on any roadway with more than one lane in each direction, any motorist who is approaching any emergency vehicle, which is stopped on or near the road with its emergency warning lights flashing (lights may be red, amber, and blue), must move over into the lane farthest away from the stopped emergency vehicle if safe to do so.
If there are more than two lanes, the motorist must allow one full open lane of space between their vehicle and the emergency vehicle. Emergency vehicles include vehicles used for law enforcement, fire, ambulance, and rescue purposes and tow trucks.
A new subdivision requires the same space be given to freeway service patrol, road maintenance, or construction vehicles which are stopped with their lights flashing.
While the law does not address two-lane undivided roadways, safety dictates that drivers slow down, be extra alert and be prepared to stop when coming past all law enforcement traffic stops, crash and rescue operations, and other roadside work zones.
Most law enforcement agencies have their horrifying stories of personnel who are hit by passing motorists while they're on traffic stops or working at crash scenes. Kandiyohi County is no exception, having had personnel and vehicles hit several times during recent years. The Minnesota State Patrol has costs each year between a half and one million dollars from motorists hitting patrol vehicles and troopers -- about 200 incidents per year.
Law enforcement will also watch for unbelted drivers and passengers during the enforcement effort. While surveys last week show seat belt use has gone up more than 15 percent in Willmar as compared to surveys in early June when it was 71 percent, one in eight drivers is not protecting themselves with their seat belts.
-- Staff reports