By: Sarah Snyder
It's a simple change of pace that means life and death for law enforcement. They're sending out a warning to drivers who speed past stopped emergency vehicles. NewsWest 9 spoke with officials in Midland and Odessa along with the state highway patrol to find out how bad the problem is here in West Texas.
Officials around West Texas tell NewsWest 9, this is something they have to think about every time they get out of their vehicles. Just in the past few years, several officers have been killed by simply getting out of their cars to stop speeders. NewsWest 9 hit the streets, to find out what the dangers are and whether West Texas drivers make the grade.
It happens every time their lights flash red and blue.
"I can tell you the number of times I've pulled my gun, but I can't tell you the number of times I've run for my life to keep from getting hit by a vehicle that was passing me," Trooper John Barton with the Texas Department of Public Safety, said.
Here's the problem, if you run across an emergency vehicle with their lights on, the law says you need to change lanes. But if you're on a two lane road, you have to slow down 20 miles below the posted speed limit.
"It's a big threat," Trooper Barton said. "The majority of officers, especially those of us on Highway Patrol on open roads where you have a lot of high rates of speed - our number one concern is the vehicle traffic itself."
Texas legislators passed the "Move Over" Law a few years ago, but shortly thereafter, a state trooper was killed on the highway in Monahans at the hands of a driver who just wasn't paying attention.
"It was one of those situations where the vehicle failed to change lanes and if he would have simply changed lanes, it would have been ok, but it struck and killed that officer who was a friend of ours," Trooper Barton said.
On Friday, NewsWest 9 staked out on Loop 250 in the Tall City to find out whether drivers move over and slow down and it didn't take any more than a few minutes of an officer stopping a speeder that we found two 'move-over' violations. Midland Police tell NewsWest 9, on busy roads, they've even had to change the way they position their patrol cars.
"There's a whole list of dangers dealing with somebody you've stopped so you have to pay attention to that, and you always have to keep in mind there are these other vehicles coming, so it's multitasking at its best," Lt. Brian Bogart with the Midland Police Department, said.
If an officer catches you speeding past a stopped emergency vehicle be prepared to pay-up. Fines run anywhere from $200 to $500 and if your car injures an officer that's a class B misdemeanor or a felony. The "Move Over" Law doesn't just apply to police it also includes fire and EMS vehicles.