Suffolk County Police Department to Enhance Enforcement to Improve Compliance, Ensure Officer Safety.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced a multi-pronged awareness and enforcement campaign designed to crack down on ‘Move Over’ law violators and increase roadway safety for law enforcement personnel, emergency vehicles and road workers. The County Executive also unveiled a public service announcement that will be aired throughout the summer.
“Move Over is enforced for a reason – to ensure the safety of law enforcement, first responders, and highway personnel,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “This public awareness effort is intended to protect our roads while protecting those whose job it is to enforce the rules of the road.”
The County Executive was joined by Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, Suffolk County Police Department Highway Division personnel, along with representatives from the New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Police and Altice USA.
Under New York State law, drivers traveling in the same direction must exercise due care, including moving from a lane immediately adjacent, and reducing speed, to avoid colliding with a vehicle parked, stopped, or standing on the shoulder or any portion of the highway when the vehicle is an authorized emergency response, tow truck, or maintenance vehicle with its lights flashing.
The original legislation, which was signed into law in 2011 by Governor David Paterson, was intended to protect law enforcement and emergency services personnel. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo expanded enforcement in 2012 to include maintenance and tow truck workers, and again in 2017 to include volunteer firefighters and volunteer EMTs. Drivers who violate these laws are subject to a fine of up to $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense within 18 months and $450 for a third offense within 18 months.
On November 19, 2018 at approximately 11:50 PM, Suffolk County Highway Patrol Officer Robert Mudzinski, who attended the press conference, responded to a two-car crash on the eastbound Long Island Expressway near Exit 51 in Dix Hills. Officer Mudzinski and members of the Dix Hills Fire Department were tending to the scene of the accident when an 18-wheel tractor trailer struck the rear end of the fire truck, which was occupied by several firefighters. After striking the fire truck, the tractor-trailer then jackknifed and struck Officer Mudzinski’s Highway Patrol car. Officer Mudzinski and one of the responding firefighters were transported to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. The truck driver was issued a summons for Failure to Move Over for Stopped Emergency Vehicles.
The public service announcements, which were created in-house at the Suffolk County Police Academy, are designed to educate residents on the importance of the Move Over law and how it helps protect the safety of police officers, emergency services personnel, and roadway workers. The PSAs will vary in length, with a 30-second version aired on television in partnership with Altice, and a one-minute version that will be promoted via social media. Increasing public awareness of this critical law is key to helping increase compliance.
In addition to the PSA, the Suffolk County Police Department will use both unmarked cars and marked cruisers to crack down on ‘Move Over’ Law violators starting on April 25. Non-compliance with the law, as well as other traffic violations such as distracted driving and speeding in a work zone, will be heavily enforced in addition to normal year-round enforcement.
Earlier this year, the Suffolk County Police Department partnered with REKOR Recognition Systems to conduct a two week study of Move Over Law compliance in Suffolk County. The study, which used Highway Patrol vehicles, showed that a violation occurred nearly four times every minute during a traffic stop.
A Highway Patrol vehicle patrolling on Sunrise Highway made eight stops that averaged 8.3 minutes per stop. Taking into account the number of cars that could move over, along with the threshold of remaining at or above the speed limit, there were 151 violations for an average of 2.3 violations per minute. If the speed threshold was lowered to between the speed limit and 10mph below the speed limit, the number jumped to 248 violations or 3.8 violations per minute. A second Highway Patrol vehicle on the Long Island Expressway had similar data with 35 stops that saw 1,086 violations at an average of 2.4 violations per minute at or above the speed limit. Similar to the first vehicle, lowering the speed threshold to between the speed limit and 10mph below the speed limit, the number increased to 1,649 violations for an average of 3.7 violations per minute.
According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the numbers of citations for ‘Move Over’ law violations has steadily increased over the last five years with nearly 800 summonses issued in 2018 alone. Since 2013 the Suffolk County Police Department has issued more than 2,600 summonses for ‘Move Over’ Law violations.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said: “This is a common sense law aimed at protecting a wide range of people from police officers to department of transportation employees who work on our roadways. We are urging residents to familiarize themselves with the Move Over law to ensure no more officers or highway workers are injured or killed.”
Suffolk County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services Commissioner John Jordan said: “Suffolk County FRES is committed to working with County Executive Bellone, our law enforcement partners and community leaders to ensure that Long Islanders are fully aware of the Move Over Law. By educating and reminding motorists of this important initiative, we can prevent avoidable tragedies and allow our first responders to continue to provide immediate assistance to those on-site of an incident in a safe manner.”
State Police Troop L Commander Major David C. Candelaria said: "State Troopers and our law enforcement partners have witnessed first-hand the tragedies that result when motorists do not obey the Move Over Law. Highways are a dangerous work environment for police and others who respond to emergencies and maintain our roadways. We will be vigilant in enforcing the Move Over Law and violators will be ticketed. We urge all drivers to to do their part by paying attention to the roadways, slowing down, and moving over when they see an emergency vehicle or work crew on the shoulder of a road.”
Joseph Brown, Regional Director of New York State Department of Transportation, said: “Safety is our top priority and we need motorists’ help to keep highway workers and emergency responders safe. When you see orange construction signs or flashing amber lights, please slow down and move over so that we can all go home to our families at the end of the day.”
Lee Schroeder, Executive Vice President for Government & Community Affairs at Altice USA, said: “Altice USA is committed to making a meaningful impact in the communities we serve, and we are happy to partner with Suffolk County to help raise awareness of this important issue.”
Dix Hills Fire District Commissioner Larry Feld said: “The members of this department work day and night to protect our community from harm and keep our residents safe. I applaud County Executive Bellone for his advocacy and his efforts to educate the public on the necessity of the Move Over law, which is critical to protecting the safety and wellbeing of our firefighters and EMT workers.”
Rod Hillman, President of REKOR Recognition Systems, said: “We would like to commend and thank Suffolk County Executive Bellone for allowing us to deploy and assess REKOR Recognition Systems’ new technology which can electronically capture Move Over violations. Our technology utilized in this field test has shown an all too common problem across the United States - many drivers simply do not abide by the Move Over law, and consequently more needs to be done to correct this dangerous driving behavior.”