WASHINGTON — Move over, slow down, and keep your seat belt on. While it may sound like common sense in order to give police, tow trucks and other emergency response the space to safely do their job, Virginia State Police say the region needs a reminder after three state troopers were hit last month in just one week.
While all three troopers survived the serious crashes, the law requiring drivers to slow down or move over is also meant to protect people like Hicham “AJ” Nadji, the Fairfax Towing and Recovery driver killed in December when a driver struck him on the side of the Beltway near Tysons.
“One wrong step, that could be my life. Everybody has a life, a family, and someone to go home to at night, so try to do your best to pay attention and watch what you’re doing,” company manager Dan Strouth says.
“Just give us room out there on the roads, pay attention, stay off your phones, stop messing with your radios, navigations. Stop being distracted,” he adds.
Trooper Michael McSellers was stopped on the Beltway on Feb. 17 not far from where Nadji was hit when an out of control pickup truck slammed into his patrol car.
He says it started like a regular work day, but he was concerned about how fast people were driving after it had snowed the night before.
“People in four-wheel drive vehicles continued to drive like it was a regular day,” McSellers says. “I’m sitting there, and I’m like ‘please lord, don’t let me get hit.’ And, within 15 minutes, I was hit.”
His cruiser was hit from behind into the car he was trying to help, and the cruiser also slammed into the guardrail.
“That moment, that day, could have ended my life. If it had been a minute later, I would have stepped out of my vehicle, and I might not be here,” he reflects.
He asks simply that drivers follow the law, and move over to an open lane if it is possible, or otherwise slow down. He says his life, and his family’s future, depends on it.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, traffic-related crashes or incidents are among the leading causes of line-of-duty death for police officers.
Thirty-two officers were killed in non-felony car crashes in 2014 alone.
A first violation of the move over law in Virginia is punishable by a $250 fine, while any further violations are classified as misdemeanors with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. If the violation leads to a crash, a court can also suspend the driver’s license.
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