Colorado’s winter is in full swing and with several more months of icy roads predicted, the Colorado State Patrol wants you to know how to keep yourself and others including first responders and emergency operation vehicles safe on roadways.
According to the Emergency Responder Safety Institute, in 2021 65 deaths of first responders have been reported nationally after being struck on the roadside while working. Of those who died, 30 were law enforcement officers, the highest group accounted for, closely followed by tow truck operators (22).
This disturbing trend cannot continue according to Col. Matthew C. Packard, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “Road conditions can change in an instant and drivers need to be prepared to stop or navigate difficult conditions,” he warned. “Last year, troopers around the state cited 482 drives for violations related to tire and chain restrictions for vehicles of all types on our roadways. If you fail to prepare your vehicle properly, the crash you cause may not stop at property damage – it may take a life.”
How does the law factor in?
On September 13, 2020, Colorado’s new Slow Down, Move Over law was implemented, illustrating that drivers in Colorado have two choices when they see an emergency/tow/maintenance vehicle: Move over at least one lane from that vehicle. Or, if they are not able to safely move over, then they must slow to safe speed (drivers must slow down to 25 Miles Per Hour (MPH) or less in 40 MPH zone).
While these trends are alarming in Colorado, the impacts are nationwide. All 50 states have “Slow Down, Move Over” laws, yet fewer than 30% of Americans know these laws (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Traffic incidents are the number one cause of death for police officers and EMS responders nationwide (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).
As you take to the road, remember that weather conditions, your own personal driving habits, and habits of those around you all play into keeping yourself and others safe while driving. Each person must play a role in observing these trends, staying educated and up-to-date on recent legislation, and taking an overall responsibility for their actions on the roadways./