Indiana drivers often ignore Move Over law

Tow truck drivers often at risk

INDIANAPOLIS - The Call 6 Investigators have uncovered a law many drivers are completely ignoring, and most are getting away with it.

The Move Over law is designed to protect emergency and highway personnel, including police, fire, ambulances and utility workers, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.

If you can do so safely, you are supposed to change lanes away from the stopped emergency vehicle when its lights are flashing, or at the very least slow your speed by at least 10 mph.

But many people don’t realize the Move Over Law also applies to tow truck drivers.

"We've had two or three wreckers totaled and we've had to climb on trucks or run around them," said JR Cook, owner of Cook's Towing. "It's actually scary. I've had them clip my elbow."

Dash cam videos have captured what can happen when drivers don't move over and end up smashing into emergency workers.

It's a constant fear for tow truck drivers, because their office is inches away from traffic that could kill or injure them.

Wayne Aughenbaugh's Story

Wayne Aughenbaugh lost his leg when a tractor-trailer smashed into the box van he was loading up on Interstate 69 in 2007.

"I just happened to look up at the last possible second, not even knowing the semi was coming," said Aughenbaugh. "I didn't have a lot of time to react. It happened in the snap of a finger."

The crash cost Aughenbaugh his beloved career as a tow truck driver.

"I'd give everything I have back for that morning to have never happened, but that's impossible," said Aughenbaugh.

The Call 6 Investigators could not find any agency that keeps statistics on crashes involving tow trucks, but Cook said it happens dozens of times a year across the country.

"We're just out here trying to do a job, trying to make a living," said Cook. "Cars don't slow down. You figure they're going 65-70 mph just feet away from your truck."

Ridealong With ISP Reveals Dangers

The Call 6 Investigators saw the danger firsthand while riding along with Indiana State Police Master Trooper Shana Kennedy.

"I've had them so close and go by me so fast, literally this car will rock," said Kennedy.

While ISP was making an arrest on Interstate 65 for an outstanding warrant, cars continued to fly by our cameras.

"Really? Get over! Major moving violation!” shouted Kennedy at the vehicles. “Unbelievable."

The Call 6 crew also saw drivers trying to come to a complete stop on the interstate.

"We see that a lot around here," said Kennedy. "People will literally stop in the lane of travel, which is just going to cause a crash behind them."

Kennedy said distracted driving is part of the reason people don't obey the Move Over law. Drivers are often talking, falling asleep and texting behind the wheel.

"Traffic is right next to me and I'm watching people on their phones, not watching what they're doing," said Kennedy.

Drivers Not Held Accountable

Drivers may also know their chance of getting caught is slim.

From Jan. 1, 2013 to June 1, 2014, ISP issued nearly 196,049 citations statewide for speeding. In that same time frame they wrote 1,840 tickets for the Move Over law.

Interactive: Where does ISP ticket the most drivers for violating the Move Over law?

"It's one of the lowest ones that's probably written, because if we are by ourselves, we are dealing with a situation and we can't go after that person," said Kennedy. "Unless I'm finishing at a crash or finishing up a traffic stop, they're going to get away with it."

Indiana State Police could not provide an exact breakdown of how many tickets were issued for failing to move over for tow trucks, but Kennedy said wreckers are in an especially tough spot.

"They don't have the luxury of us being with them," said Kennedy. "They're really taking their lives in their own hands."

You can be fined and your driver's license can be suspended for up to two years if you fail to move over and end up causing damage to emergency equipment, or if you hurt or kill an emergency worker.

But according to numbers we obtained from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, seven licenses were suspended in 2013 for failing to yield to emergency vehicles. That's 0.0018 percent of all licenses suspended last year.

Tow truck drivers said cracking down on violators might help, but they think the solution is educating drivers to give them more room.

"If you can't get over, at least slow down," said Aughenbaugh. "A deadline is not worth killing yourself or someone over."

The law currently does not apply to regular cars broken down on the side of the road, but police said it's a good idea to move over or slow down for them, too.

Follow Kara Kenney on Twitter: @karakenney6  | Facebook: KaraKenneyNews

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