Oswego, NY – When you see lights flashing on the side of the highway, it's not only a good idea to move into the opposite lane. As of the New Year, it will also be the law in New York State.
Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh explains why he supported the "Ambrose-Searles Move Over Act."
"It is named after Trooper Ambrose and Deputy Glenn Searles who were both killed on roadside accidents on interstates," Walsh says.
In November, 2003, Searles stopped to assist a stranded vehicle on Interstate 481 in Dewitt when a minivan struck and killed him.
"It was one of those white-out areas on 481 where the wind was blowing loose snow across the highway and the driver plowed into our deputy," says Walsh.
"It is extremely hazardous, particularly when the road conditions are bad and we have to be on the side of the road assisting motorists or investigating accidents or issuing tickets," he says. "And it's always a concern for us particularly on the Interstate. So we ask that the rest of the motoring public take that into consideration."
Walsh says a law passed after Searles' death was not enough. "There had been a lesser bill that was passed a couple of years ago and we pushed for the "move over" portion of it," he says. "The lesser bill just required drivers to use caution and slow down when they approached emergency vehicles on the side of the road. This now requires if possible that they move over to the lane that's farthest from where the car is pulled over to increase safety."
On single lane roads, drivers will be required to slow down and take care to pass emergency vehicles at a safe distance.
It applies to any official emergency vehicles with their flashing lights on.
"Certainly we'll be enforcing it when we see issues of individuals coming very close to our pulled over cars and not making an effort to slow down or move over," says Walsh.
Walsh says he hopes the law will protect motorists as well as his deputies.
"I hope that they will not only feel safer, I hope that they will be safer," he says.
The penalty for a first conviction under the new law will be a fine of up to 250 dollars plus court surcharges, as well as two points on the driver's license.