Every day, thousands of New York State’s law enforcement officers and emergency workers risk their lives to serve and protect us. As citizens of this state, we have an obligation to protect them in return. That’s why I supported the “Ambrose-Searles Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over and slow down when approaching an authorized vehicle with emergency lights flashing, parked on a New York interstate highway or parkway (Ch. 387 of 2010).
For many, the practice of slowing down and changing lanes for emergency vehicles is a routine and common-sense procedure that has been incorporated into their regular driving habits. Unfortunately, not everyone has adopted this practice on their own, and after hearing the stories of two police officers, whom this law is named for, I felt I should help support and promote this law.
In 2002, New York State Trooper Richard Ambrose’s patrol car was struck by an intoxicated driver during a routine traffic stop on the New York State Thruway in Yonkers. The driver was driving an SUV and traveling in excess of 80 miles an hour. Upon impact, Ambrose’s car exploded in flames, and Ambrose was killed inside the vehicle. In 2003, Onondaga County Deputy Sheriff Glenn M. Searles was assisting a motorist whose vehicle had gone off the road. While exiting his car, Deputy Searles was struck by another motorist, pinning him against his patrol car. Deputy Searles died from his injuries.
Recently, many roadways across the state have been posting messages regarding the new law on highway advisory signs, and officers have begun ticketing for this offense. So far, state police have issued 865 tickets under the “Move Over” law.i Each offense carries a fine and/or jail time, as well as two points on the driver’s license.
With its high speeds, hazardous conditions and sometimes inattentive drivers, highways can be among the most dangerous environments faced by law enforcement officers and first responders. They need to be able to perform their vital duties without fear of harm from other motorists. In short, this law helps keep them safe, so they can keep us safe.