Highway Patrol reminds drivers to move over for emergency crews -- with good reason

In 2001, a Burton Fire District firefighter working at an accident scene on the shoulder of S.C. 116 was struck by a car and thrown more than 75 feet, according to the district.

  • The firefighter, who spent about six months in the hospital and suffered severe nerve damage, eventually returned to his job, but still receives treatment for his injured back, said Dan Byrne, a district spokesman.
  • "We've had a lot of narrow, close calls," Byrne said.

    To try to prevent such incidents, the Highway Patrol has joined an effort with four other Southeastern states to remind the public about laws designed to protect law-enforcement and other first-responders while they're at work. The Patrol is teaming up with troopers from Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee this week to enforce "Move Over" laws and educate drivers, a news release said.

    A close call early Sunday left one Bluffton Police Officer shaken.

    At about 1:15 a.m., a Bluffton patrol car was struck while on the shoulder of S.C. 46 near the Heritage Parkway, according to the department.

    The officer, who had pulled to the roadside for a routine traffic stop, was standing nearby when a passing motorist's side-view mirror clipped the back of the patrol car, said Capt. Bryan Norberg, a department spokesman.

    The motorist pulled over after the accident, and the officer called the S.C. Highway Patrol to respond, Norberg said. The Highway Patrol couldn't be reached in regard to whether the driver was ticketed in that incident.

    "People are absolutely not adhering to the law," said Bluffton Police Chief David McAllister. "I'm not sure people are aware of the law. This driver came so close, they knocked their mirror clean off and almost hit our officer.

    "The law was enacted because of incidents where police and EMS workers were injured. The results can be tragic."

    The South Carolina "Move Over" law requires motorists to merge into an adjacent lane whenever possible when passing emergency work zones. If convicted, the misdemeanor penalty carries a fine of $300 to $500, according to Beaufort Police Chief Matthew Clancy.

    Clancy said the danger is a constant concern for officers stopped on roadsides. He said the department has ticketed drivers for not complying with the law.

    Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said deputies rarely, if ever, ticket drivers for violating the law. He said that in most cases, motorists are courteous enough to slow down and give a wide berth.

    But other county agencies disagreed.

    "On the highways, it's not as much of a problem, but on some of the smaller roads, there's less room for officers to pull over," Clancy said. "If drivers can't pull over, reducing the speed is very important."

    Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division Chief Lavarn Lucas said people routinely break the law, but emergency service personnel have not reported any drivers.

    "As soon as you see the lights, slow down and move over as far as traffic permits," he said. "It provides for the safety of EMS workers and civilians."