Drivers: move over and slow down, please

Michigan’s new “Emergency Vehicle Caution Law” — also known as the “Move Over Law” — took effect this month. Drivers now must slow to 10 mph below the posted speed limit when passing any stopped emergency vehicle: ambulances, police cruisers, fire trucks or wreckers.

Anyone who doesn’t already do that is flirting with disaster.

The new law is intended to convince drivers that saving a few seconds of drive time isn’t worth risking a $400 fine and two points on their license, not to mention perhaps avoiding injuring or killing someone. Most drivers automatically slow down when they see flashing lights, because life already may be hanging in the balance.

The new law is more specific in speeds and penalties than the older law it replaces.

The new measure requires drivers to merge left, when possible, to allow an empty lane beside the emergency vehicle.

It’s a shame that an updated law is required to convince some people to navigate with care past emergency scenes.

A flashing light always screams “caution!” Every driver automatically should slow and give the scene wide berth.

A wrecker or police cruiser with lights flashing means there are probably emergency workers near or in traffic lanes.

A fire truck with lights flashing means there’s a rescue in progress, or the danger of fire on the roadway. An ambulance with lights flashing means injured victims may be on the scene, along with rescuers working to save them.

The last thing anyone needs in those situations is a carelessly driven car zooming past at full speed.

The Traverse City area has seen too many road tragedies in recent years. Changing a flat tire shouldn’t be a life-threatening experience. Riding a bike or walking along a country road should be safe. Working as part of a highway construction crew shouldn’t endanger your life. There’s no excuse for slamming into a fire truck at the scene of a traffic crash.

Anytime something big and something small are in close proximity, danger exists for the small. That’s particularly true when the small is a human body and the large is a two-ton chunk of metal.

Pedestrians, bicyclists, cars and trucks can co-exist on our roads. Everyone just needs to behave responsibly. Walkers and bikers need to obey rules of the road, and they need to choose routes wisely. Drivers need to use care whenever pedestrians or bikers are on the scene. And they need to slow down when emergency workers and emergency vehicles are at work. It’s the law.

Drivers need to obey all Michigan traffic regulations, including the new Emergency Vehicle Caution Law. They also need to obey the laws of common sense.

Road conditions vary. Slowing to 10 mph below the posted limit may not be enough when roads are slippery or visibility is poor.

Slow down in the snow — especially around emergency vehicles.

— Traverse City Record-Eagle