Penalties increased for violators of Slow Down, Move Over law
On Friday, September 1 several state laws went into effect, including House Bill 898 which increased the penalties for those who fail to change lanes or slow down when first responders are on the side of the road
CENTERVILLE, Texas (KBTX) - On Friday, September 1 several state laws went into effect, including House Bill 898 which increased the penalties for those who fail to change lanes or slow down when first responders are on the side of the road.
House Bill 898, known as the Slow Down, Move Over law was signed into law by the governor in June after it cleared both the House and Senate. Centerville Volunteer Firefighter Colton Adams has been an advocate for the bill. Last year in June, Adams and another firefighter were struck by a semi-truck while responding to a minor vehicle crash on I-45. Adams lost one of his legs and a woman was killed.
Since the accident, Adams has been on a long road to recovery, which he hopes is a reminder of why it’s so important to obey the law.
“I’m proud to report I’m back to one hundred percent, released back doing what I love, but it has been a road, a hellacious road because someone failed to move over or slow down to our emergency scene,” Adams said.
The life-changing experience led Adams to testify in front of the House and Senate in support of the bill as it was being considered.
“There were multiple emergency first responders and I think all of us would agree through all of the trauma we’ve endured we weren’t there for us we were there to prevent others from going through what we’ve been through and to help protect them and bring awareness to their awareness on the side of the road,” Adams said.
Just this year Adams said 26 first responders have been killed after they were hit by a vehicle, last year there were 51 deaths.
“There are no statistics for those who’ve sustained serious bodily injuries though, that happens every day, but you don’t hear about those because they’re still alive,” Adams said. “A lot of those never return to work thankfully I was able to return to the best job there is.”
DPS Sgt. Justin Ruiz said it’s common to see vehicles speed past first responders when they’re pulled over on the side of the road and described it as a “daily occurrence.”
“We get cars flying by us in the right-hand lane, not moving over, not slowing down even a little bit,” Ruiz said. “It’s caused a lot of crashes with other agencies throughout the state. That’s why it’s so important to us.”
The fine for failing to slow down 20 miles below the posted speed limit or changing lanes has increased to $1,250. Another offense within the first five years can go up to $2,000. If someone gets into a crash with an emergency vehicle or tow truck on the side of the road it can be a class A misdemeanor with jail time. If a first responder is hurt and killed it becomes a felony, Ruiz said.
“We’re glad that legislative saw that this is an issue, and we’re glad that the fines are higher because it’s going to help people realize this is an important law to remember,” Ruiz said. “It’s not only a law here in Texas, it’s a law in all 50 states.”
Adams said that while this is a step in the right direction, this is just the start.
“We’ll be back at it next legislative session, hopefully getting a no dismissal of tickets and pushing for more enhanced penalties to protect our first responders,” Adams said.
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