It should be second nature to drivers across the U.S. and Canada: if you see flashing lights on the side of the road, slow down, move over and give emergency personnel a wide berth to safely do their jobs. In all 50 states and in every Canadian province, it’s also the law.
The so-called “move over” laws have for years applied to police, fire and ambulance services, and in many states and provinces they’ve expanded to include tow-truck operators and garbage collectors as well. But until now, utility workers operating close to the roadway have enjoyed such protections in just three states: Tennessee, North Carolina and Indiana.
On April 19, the tiny club expanded to four when Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 767 into law at an event marking Lineman Appreciation Month in the state.
“Adding utility workers to Georgia’s move over law is an important recognition of the dangerous nature of the work our men and women do out there on the roads every day,” said Atlanta Local 84 Business Manager Larry Rooks, who represents linemen at the state’s largest utility, Georgia Power. “Our members work in the dark and in the rain and ice, and it’s important that drivers give these guys room to do their jobs. We appreciate the legislature making this change and recognizing the value of the work we do.”
In April 2015, three Georgia linemen were killed across the border in Florida when a driver careened off the road and into the crew, which was installing new electrical poles at the time.
“This kind of tragedy is never 100 percent preventable,” said IBEW Director of Safety David Mullen, “but taking steps to get drivers to slow down and give room to work crews is just common sense. It’s the kind of easy change that we hope will be made in every state and provincial capital in the U.S. and Canada.”
Georgia’s new law requires drivers approaching flashing lights or traffic cones to slow down and vacate the lane nearest to the emergency personnel or workers. If no lane is available, drivers are required to reduce their speed below the posted limit and be prepared to stop if necessary. Violators face a $250 fine.
Paul Bowers, CEO of Georgia Power, thanked the governor for his recognition of the work of line crews, saying, "Safety is our top priority in everything we do, and we would like to thank the governor and the members of the legislature for passing this important legislation that will keep our workers safe in the field."
The move over law takes effect on July 1.