PUTNAM COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – First responders continually advocate for driver safety and paying attention on the road, especially when first response vehicles are driving through heavily trafficked areas to respond to 911 calls.
“Move Over” laws are used in West Virginia to keep first responders safe when responding to these emergency calls, and these laws also keep civilian drivers safe by moving them out of emergency vehicles’ way.
Following a recent deadly crash on Corridor G that involved a South Charleston fire truck and a passenger vehicle colliding, safety measures like the “Move Over” law are urgent.
“Slow down and move to the right. We can’t stress that enough. We run into a lot, and I don’t know if people aren’t educated on what to do, but slow down and move to the right,” Teays Valley firefighter Cody Smith said. “Don’t try to pull out in front, don’t try to hurry up and get where you’re going.”
Some fire departments also use a device called Opticom to prevent car accidents involving first responders. Opticom assists first responders by alerting civilian drivers that fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and other response vehicles need them to stop and pay attention to their surroundings.
The Opticom device sits on an emergency vehicle, like a firetruck, and it uses infrared light to connect to a receiver placed on a stoplight.
This process almost instantaneously makes green lights in a given direction turn red when first responders activate a switch inside their vehicles. Once the switch happens, traffic has time to stop and pull over, and an emergency vehicle can get through a busy intersection. The intersection of Corridor G and Childress Road where the fatal crash happened did not have one of the devices in place.
Many local first responders, like those at Teays Valley Fire Department, said this device makes a difference for both them and civilian drivers.
“It’s the safety of us and the safety of the people around us. If someone doesn’t pull over, we’re constantly trying to anticipate someone else’s next move. Usually, we’re trying to anticipate that they’re going to do what we don’t want them to do that way we’re ready for it,” firefighter Cody Smith said. “If you just do what you’re supposed to do and let us go where we need to go, you’ll get where you need to go.”
Despite the impulse to rush that many drivers may feel, Smith said recognizing the need for safety on the roads is important for all drivers because it can make the difference between life or death.
“[For] somebody somewhere, if our lights and sirens are on, that means there’s an emergency. Even though it’s not your emergency, it’s somebody’s emergency. Slow down and move over, and let us get to the people that need it,” Smith said.