New law shields emergency responders

The Mississippi Legislature passed a bill during the 2007 session which went into effect on Sunday.  The "Move Over Law" is designed to protect law enforcement officials and emergency responders working the shoulder of the highway.  Officials say the law is easy to obey by simply using common sense.

The law requires motorists to vacate the lane closest to an emergency vehicle stopped on the shoulder of the highway.

"This law deals with a vehicle that is actually stopped rendering care or responding to whatever need.  It includes wreckers, it includes law enforcement as well as EMS," says Wade Spruill, CEO of Triple A Ambulance Service.

He says drivers should use common sense when approaching an emergency situation on the side of the road, although that's not always the case.

"Normally the people are actually what we call 'rubbernecking,'" he says, "looking at the situation when they really need to give us room and go on by."

The law is designed to protect the lives of those working in emergency situations.

" If you were the person working on the side of the road, whether you're a highway construction crew of you're an emergency medical technician trying to save someone's life, the last thing you need to worry about is being injured," Spruill says.

The misdemeanor is punishable by by a fine of as much as $250 or up to $1,000 if the violation results in bodily harm or damage to an emergency vehicle.

Mississippi joins more than three dozen other states that have enacted "move over" laws requiring drivers to slow down or move over to other lanes of traffic, where possible, when they see law enforcement officers or emergency personnel along highways.

If a lane change is impossible, a driver must slow down and be prepared to stop, if needed, to prevent collisions.

For years, Mississippi has had an often-ignored law that requires drivers to make way for emergency vehicles that are moving; the new law requires drivers to make way for the emergency vehicles that are stopped.