Utility workers now covered by the Move Over Law

  • The law applies to motorists on all high- ways, not just four-lane.  If it’s not safe to move over, slow down.
  • The law no longer applies only to emergency. Now, any vehicle with flashing amber lights, including hazard lights, is included.
  • Violations carry a maximum penalty of a $500 fine or 30 days in jail.

As supervisor of construction and cable departments, Johnny Young is in charge of a team who puts their lives on the line every day.

Sometimes Johnny Young can feel the breeze on his face as a vehicle speeds through a work zone. It’s not uncommon for him to hear the sound of screeching tires as drivers slam on the brakes at the last second either.

Young, the cable and line technician supervisor at NCTC, says all the dangers go through a lineman’s mind when working on the side of the highway.

“We put out our signs and cones, but sometimes that’s not enough to slow drivers down,” Young says. NCTC also uses a worker holding a flag to warn drivers of work crews ahead.

Young says he believes drivers see the cones, signs and flaggers but don’t heed the warning until they actually see a work crew or the work trucks. In some cases, the truck is pulled off the highway, but at times the vehicle must remain partially on the road.  “Even if there are signs, that foot doesn’t come off the accelerator until they see the truck in the road,” Young says.

A  DANGEROUS WORKSPACE

Young says about 80 percent of their work is on the side of the highway, often on narrow, curvy rural roads. In most cases, warning signs are placed at least a half-mile away from the crew to give drivers time to slow. “Those signs are there for a reason,” he says.

If it’s a location Young feels is especially dangerous, he asks for assistance from local law enforcement, which does help slow drivers down. “It’s not the officers’ responsibility, but they do a good job, and we appreciate their help very much,” he says.

Also, NCTC trucks are equipped with flashing amber and clear lights, and recent laws provide such vehicles added protection.

FOLLOW THE LAW

Tennessee’s Move Over Law, which passed in 2006, required a motorist to move over if possible or slow down when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle. The law was updated in 2017 to include any vehicle with flashing hazard lights, including utility trucks or even a motorist changing a flat tire.

In rural areas, it’s not always possible to move over. If drivers cannot move over, they must slow down if they see utility crews working, says Vic Donoho, director of the Tennessee Highway Safety Office.

“If someone is at their desk working, they don’t expect a vehicle to come crashing through,” Donoho says. “For utility workers, the side of the road is their office.”

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