A new proposed bill could help save the lives of roadside first responders

Don’t feel like slowing down or moving over? A hefty fine could be headed your way if bill 898 is passed
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 6:21 PM CDT
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Texas (KWTX) - Recent events have sparked conversation regarding the slow down move over law, in Texas.

Most recently, West Firefighter Edward Hykel died after he was struck along I-35, responding to a car fire.

His death comes at a time when multiple emergency response agencies are pushing for a bill that’ll increase the fines associated with the slow down move over law.

Speaking to a few of those emergency response agencies, they recalled their own close calls alongside the road.

“All it would’ve taken is for me to take a step back, for me to slip, fall and she would’ve hit me,” said Roadrunner towing owner, Geoff Nienstedt.

He’s spent two-thirds of his life working on the roadside, many of which included close calls with other drivers on the road.

While he’s never been hit, someone close to him has, sparking his fight for more safety.

“My fight started in 2015 when my son was hit by a fully loaded crew tanker in Floresville, Texas,” said Nienstedt.

His son survived his accident and now he wants more awareness surrounding the slow-down move over law in Texas.

As it stands now, the law requires drivers to move over a lane or drive 20 miles per hour under the posted speed limit.

“That’s going to require an all-in effort from drivers, from our communities to remind ourselves,” said TxDOT representative, Jake Smith.

Currently proposed, bill 898 would increase the fine anywhere from $500 to $1,250.

If you violate the law again and cause damage, the fine increases anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000.

“People have to ask themselves, what is so important out there to risk killing a first responder or another person,” said AMR Regional Director, Mark Kessler.

According to a Responder Safety report, since 2019, 25 first responders have been killed along Texas roadways. Nationwide that number is 209.

That number includes the most recent death of West Firefighter Edward Hykel.

“If you see us on the side of the road with our emergency lights give us some room to work. If you can’t safely move over to the next lane you need to drop 20 below the speed limit,” Nienstedt asked of those on the roads.

Those pushing for bill 898 hope to pass it during the current legislative session.

If that happens it will go into effect in September 2023.