While existing law tells drivers to slow down and move over, the new bill would establish a specific 500-foot emergency speed zone for the crash site and beef up penalties for violators. The bill also creates an Education Program so drivers are more aware of roadside hazards.
“Every day, firefighters, police and emergency workers respond to accidents only a couple feet from traffic going 60 mph,” Libous said. “At that speed, they’re an eye blink away from serious injury or even death.”
The Act includes the following provisions:
- Requires drivers to slow down to a minimum of 20 mph below the normal speed limit and give wide berth to emergency vehicles responding to an accident.
- Creates an Education Program to make sure drivers are aware of the new law.
- Violators are subject to triple damages if they’re sued for damages of death, personal injury or property damage.
- Violators also face a mandatory surcharge of $100 to $250 in addition to any traffic fine. That money will go directly to an Emergency Zone Safety Education Fund.
- Repeat offenders can face vehicular assault, vehicular manslaughter and criminal mischief charges.
Firefighters, medics, fire police and tow truck operators all face similar danger, like Town of Maine Fire Police Officer Joe Vargason who was killed in June 2001 when he was struck by a car while directing traffic at a fire scene.
“When I heard the dangers – the horrors, really – that the Afton volunteers and other emergency service workers face every time they respond to a roadside accident, I knew we needed to do more,” Libous said. “Recent tragedies just highlight the dangers emergency workers face every day. We need to do everything we can to make them safer. I'm very much looking forward to getting the Act passed by the Senate next year.”