On May 10, 2014, Nashville Police Officer Michael Petrina, 25 from Germantown, was struck and killed by a motorhome while directing traffic on Interstate 65. Every day, fire fighters, police officers, paramedics and other emergency personnel respond to calls for help, risking their lives to save others. They are required by state law to complete annual training on the proper way to respond to calls using lights and a siren, but we as citizens, can help make the emergency response of fire engines, ambulances and police vehicles safer.
The Tennessee Driver's Handbook states, "Tennessee law requires that upon the immediate approach of an emergency vehicle all traffic meeting or being overtaken must YIELD the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to the right hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection and stop. Remain in that stopped position until the emergency vehicle has passed or you have been directed to move by a police officer. Proceed with caution. There may be other emergency vehicles coming."
Roads in and around Collierville are more crowded than ever before, and many drivers do not react safely when an emergency vehicle approaches. From stopping when a fire truck or ambulance approaches, rather than pulling over to the right side of the road, to weaving back and forth indecisively, or following the fire engine through an intersection to beat the traffic light, we are putting ourselves and first responders at risk. Another mistake drivers make is not looking out for a second emergency vehicle; after the first one passes, always check to make sure there aren't any more following. Tennessee has had a "move over" law as part of the "Failure to Yield to Emergency Vehicles Law." Tennessee Code Annotated 55-8-132 requires motorists to move over into the adjacent lane of traffic, when safe to do so, or to slow down for emergency vehicles if it is not safe to move over. The law includes fire engines, police vehicles, recovery vehicles, highway maintenance vehicles, or utility service vehicles for which motorists are required to either slow down or move over.
The law's intent is to establish a safety zone to protect police, firefighters, other emergency personnel, and utility workers. The penalty for violating the "Move Over Law" in Tennessee is a maximum fine of up to $500 and possibly up to 30 days in jail.
It is important to remember the reason an emergency vehicle is using its lights and siren is because they are responding to an emergency situation. While these personnel are trained to respond quickly and safely, they need your help. The next time you are driving and see an emergency vehicle approaching, give them a brake! Help them get there faster by pulling over to the right and bringing your vehicle to a complete stop. If they are stopped on the side of the road, move over and help make their job safer.