It's long been the rule of the road that drivers should move over for emergency vehicles. In Colorado, it's the law. It has been for almost two years. Now, breaking that law will be met with stiffer penalties than ever. The latest legislative session ended with a proposal - Senate Bill 229 - that makes careless driving near emergency responders, tow trucks and public utility vehicles that causes an injury a class 1 misdemeanor. The conviction will carry a sentence of 12 to 18 months in jail, along with a $5,000 fine.
Senate Bill Honors Slain Troopers
Lawmakers drafted the bill, which now sits on the governor's desk awaiting his signature, in the aftermath of a pair of Colorado Highway Patrol Troopers deaths in separate hit-and-run accidents late last year. Legislators even nicknamed the pending law the "Move Over for Cody Act," in honor of one of two troopers who'd been killed within days of each other late last year.
A tractor-trailer struck and killed Trooper Cody Donahue on Nov. 25, 2016, on Interstate 25 near Castle Rock, Colorado. Donahue had been responding to another accident on the side of the highway at the time. Less than two weeks earlier, a drunk driver returning home from a Denver Broncos football game ran down Trooper Jaimie Jursevics as she tried to wave him down on I-25 in Castle Rock. The offender tested more than four times over the legal limit of alcohol.
Careless Driving Crackdown
The legislation, which many expect the governor to sign, also bumps up the punishment for a careless driving citation that results in a fatality from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 6 felony, which would include a 12-18-month jail sentence and a fine that could top out at $100,000.
As they approach emergency vehicles and tow trucks, Colorado motorists are supposed to "proceed with due care and caution and yield the right-of-way by moving into a lane at least one moving lane apart." The new law includes utility vehicles, as well. The "Move Over for Cody Act" will go into effect Sept. 1, 2017, just in time for all that highway traffic for the Labor Day weekend.
Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with the aftermath of this type of catastrophic injury and loss. As the summer driving season approaches, help those who help us, move over for emergency vehicles, tow truck drivers, and possibly utility vehicles, who are parked on the side of the road.