September was a month to forget in many aspects. Statewide, fatality crashes spiked to near record levels. Locally in northwest Iowa, there were several high profile, multi-fatality crashes. Looking at statewide crashes, two hold significance for a slightly different reason.
On September 13, four people were killed on I-80 near Des Moines when a semi crashed into the back of another truck that was disabled on the shoulder. Jesse Inman, 29 of Ankeny and Daniel Walsh, 60 of Des Moines were working at the scene as tow operators, assisting the broken down truck. They were outside their tow rig when the semi slammed into them.
Later that same week, a volunteer firefighter was killed on I-80 near Minden. Michael Collins, 41 of Shelby was directing traffic at the scene of a crash. A passing motorist did not see the emergency lights and struck Collins as he was directing traffic. Collins was killed instantly.
The common thread in these two cases highlights a little known fact about the 'move over' law. Motorists are required to move over and slow down in both circumstances. Most people recognize the requirement to move over and slow down for law enforcement, but tow trucks? Or firemen directing traffic? The law specifically includes both.
If you are approaching a stationary road maintenance vehicle or tow truck that is displaying flashing yellow lights, you are required to move over. If this action is not possible, you are required to slow down and be prepared to stop. The same standard applies if you are approaching an ambulance, fire truck, or law enforcement vehicle that is displaying a flashing red, blue, or yellow light.
The year 2012 will mark the 10th anniversary of Iowa's move over law. This begs the question, why are we still seeing serious issues with this law, even 10 years later? A good coach will tell you that it was never just one play that cost the game. It was probably a combination of many factors that all added up to the wrong outcome. Could distractions, speed, alcohol and other driver errors be contributing?
The Iowa State Patrol is committed to reducing the number of fatality crashes on our roads. Please do your part by driving defensively.
Trooper Vince Kurtz
Iowa State Patrol Safety Education