The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) created the weeklong event to highlight the work of first responders.
The state agencies and authority are using the week to remind motorists of New York’s “Move Over” Law, which strives to keep police, firefighters, ambulance workers, tow-truck drivers and other personnel safe as they work at crash scenes. Motorists are also required to move over, if they can safely do so, when construction and maintenance vehicles are stopped alongside roads across the state.
“We are grateful to all the personnel who work to keep our roadways safe. We urge all New Yorkers and our visitors to be aware that they need to give these workers room,” said Terri Egan, DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner and Acting GTSC Chair. “We appreciate having this week dedicated to the people who respond to crashes and other traffic incidents and think it serves as a good reminder to look out for their safety every day we drive.”
Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, “Emergency responders help save lives every day, but put their own lives at risk when working traffic incidents on the roadway. National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week is an opportunity to remind motorists about the dangers first responders and our own maintenance crews face, and to slow down and safely move over when they see emergency personnel and other workers on the side of the road.”
The Highway Emergency Local Patrol (HELP) program, administered by the State Department of Transportation, helps improve safety and reduce congestion on busy highways by getting disabled vehicles back on the road. The free service, which provides jump starts, tire changes, up to two gallons of gas and other minor repairs, runs during the morning and afternoon rush hours. There are 78 active HELP trucks located across the State that patrol more than 1,300 miles of highway and assist an average of more than 5,000 motorists a month.
HELP supports emergency responders by providing traffic control at accident sites, playing a key role in keeping motorists and first responders safe. HELP trucks feature flashing amber lights on the top of the vehicle to attract drivers’ attention, and are subject to the protections of the Move Over law.
State Department of Transportation Chief of Staff Cathy Calhoun said, “All emergency responders, including our HELP truck operators, should be able to focus on and attend to traffic incidents without worrying about their personal safety. It is critically important that motorists slow down and move over when they see flashing lights along the road – it’s the law and it saves lives.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nationwide, 37,461 died on the nation’s highways in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, a 5.6 percent increase. In New York State, however, the number of fatal crashes declined from 1,045 to 969.
“We are proud of New York’s record in reducing traffic fatalities, but it is important we continue our efforts through law enforcement and education to keep reducing those numbers,” Egan said.
GTSC created a video featuring emergency personnel and roadway workers talking about the importance of the “Move Over” law. You can view that video here.