A new "Move Over" law in Mississippi will require drivers to move at least one lane away when they approach emergency vehicles that are parked on the roadside with lights flashing. If drivers don't make room, they risk getting ticketed.

The law, which takes effect July 1, is intended to protect ambulance crews, state troopers and other law enforcement or medical personnel. The Legislature included tow trucks and highway maintenance vehicles in the law. An often-ignored Mississippi law already requires motorists to get out of the way of approaching emergency vehicles - usually accomplished by pulling over to the right-hand edge of a road or a street.

Supporters describe the "Move Over" law as a continuation of the Legislature's attempts the past few years to make the roadways safer. In addition to motorists yielding right of way to moving emergency vehicles, the state has laws to protect road construction crews from speeders. It also mandates car seats for children and requires adults to buckle up - all in the name of public safety.

The new law means a motorist passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road must slow down and yield the right of way by changing lanes, thus keeping at least one lane between them where possible. If a lane change is impossible because of road or traffic conditions, a motorist must slow down and be prepared to stop, if needed, to prevent collisions.

Violators may be fined up to $250 for failing to comply and up to $1,000 if there is damage to the official vehicle or injury to any driver or passenger of an official vehicle. Nearly three dozen states - Alabama the most recent in 2006 - require motorists to slow down or move over to other lanes of traffic where possible when they see law enforcement officers or emergency personnel along highways.

Tennessee and Missouri in 2006 increased the penalties under their "Move Over" laws. Kansas enacted both a road crew protection and "Move Over" laws in 2006. Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Indiana and Illinois are among states that have enacted similar laws within the past decade.

Highway Patrol officer Rusty Boyd, the patrol's public affairs officer in southwest Mississippi, said troopers are very aware of the dangers of being hit when they are outside their vehicles on the roadside. "It's a tense situation when you're standing on the side of the highway and cars are coming by possibly at 70 miles an hour just a few feet away from you," Boyd said in an interview with The Daily Leader newspaper in Brookhaven.

While motorists were given ample warning of the mandatory seat belt law, the "Move Over" Law has been less publicized. Since 2001, at least two Mississippi law enforcement officers have died because they were struck by vehicles. Leake County Deputy Willie Perry was killed in 2001 when he was struck by a vehicle at a roadside driver's license checkpoint about six miles north of Carthage on Mississippi 35.

Authorities said Perry and another deputy were running the license check after having pulled off the highway with the blue lights flashing on their patrol car. The second deputy was not hurt. In 2004, Clarke County Deputy Robert Goodwin was killed when he was struck by a vehicle while supervising an inmate road crew picking up trash along Mississippi 512 near Quitman. Authorities said a truck driver apparently lost control of his rig and hit Goodwin, who died at a local hospital.

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