Drivers pose dangers to highway workers, police

WASHINGTON – Two Maryland Transportation Authority police officers are home from the hospital after a passing driver struck their cruiser during a traffic stop Thursday on Interstate 95 in Baltimore.

What happened to them is an all too frequent occurrence for officers writing tickets, construction zone workers and tow truck drivers.

Sometimes those wrecks can be deadly.

“Our jobs out there are dangerous – severely,” said AAA Roadside Assistance Tech Greg Cook.

As recently as a few days ago, Cook says a passing vehicle sheared the mirror off the side of his service vehicle.

And even closer calls are common.

“We had a car coming up behind us and we had to jump the guard rail just to save our butts,” Cook said.

The group Respect Tow Truck Operators notes that 36 tow truck drivers were killed while working U.S. roads last year.

In 2011, the latest year data is available, 14 construction crew members were killed in wrecks in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

“These are preventable roadside deaths,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs.

“It is critical for drivers to remain aware of roadside hazards and remove unnecessary distractions while operating a vehicle,” he said.

Move over laws require drivers to shift over a lane if possible and slow down when officers or workers are roadside with lights flashing.

In Maryland, a driver failing to move over can be fined $110 and get a point on his license. If there’s a crash and someone dies or there’s a serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points.

Repeat offenders of Virginia’s move over law can be charged Class 1 misdemeanor.

Many drivers don’t know they’re supposed to get accident vehicles off roadways, if possible, to prevent causing further problems.

Both Maryland and Virginia require drivers to move accident vehicles from travel lanes if no one is injured.

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