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Tragic Accident Underscores Roadside Hazards Facing Officers

It’s a scary– and dangerous — scenario that many people have experienced at some point in their lives: having to stop along a busy stretch of highway. Whether brought on by mechanical issues, an accident or other reasons, pulling over on the interstate can be truly frightening thanks in large part to the sheer volume of cars and trucks racing by at speeds in excess of 60 miles-per-hour.

As frightening as this experience is for the average motorist, consider that the average law enforcement official may be called upon to do this several times a day thanks to traffic stops, car accident investigations and the general need to render assistance.

Furthermore, while the average motorist can remain in the relative safety of their vehicle, law enforcement officials must exit their vehicles and hope that passing motorists abide by the rules of the road and drive safely.

As evidenced by a recent tragedy in Nashville, this doesn’t always happen.

Earlier this month, a 25-year-old Nashville Metro Police officer was killed on a stretch of Interstate 65 while directing traffic around the scene of a prior motor vehicle accident.

Reports indicate that the driver of a motorhome was attempting to negotiate the tight space between a squad car and a Department of Transportation help truck when they struck the young officer. While an investigation into the incident is still ongoing, it does not appear that criminal charges will be filed.

Unfortunately, FBI statistics reveal that accidents like these are all too common, comprising the third-leading cause of death among on-duty police officers and almost 10 percent of all annual officer fatalities.

In light of this tragedy, it’s important to remind all motorists of Tennessee’s “Move Over Law.” Passed in 2006 and subsequently amended, the law dictates that motorists must move to the adjacent lane of traffic (if safe to do so) for stopped emergency responders and utility service equipment or, if this isn’t possible, slow down. Failure to abide by this law can result in a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail.

“One of the greatest gifts motorists can give us is space,” said a Metro Police spokesperson. “Move over matters. The law requires it and our lives depend on it.”

If you have questions about the pursuit of justice following the wrongful death of a loved one in a motor vehicle accident, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options.

Source: The Tennessean, “Middle Tennessee police see many dangers on road,” Bonnie Burch, May 12, 2014