Hazard Highway: A Dangerous Lack of Knowledge

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – 10 On Your Side is exposing a driving danger on the highways: Why are so many drivers ignoring the Move Over Law?

By law, you must move over or slow down when you see an emergency vehicle, a Department of Transportation vehicle or a tow truck pulled over with their flashing lights on.

Officers and troopers 10 On Your Side spoke to say this is the biggest threat they face. According to police, 71 percent of drivers don’t even know the law exists.

Hampton police Sgt. Matt Bond was hit by a driver who ignored the Move Over Law.

“I heard loud screeching tires and before I could even look up, I found an impact on my right side,” said Bond. “It threw me into the air and when I came down, I landed on my shoulder,” said Bond.

The driver of a truck pinned Hampton Police Sgt. Matt Bond between his vehicle and a car he stopped minutes earlier for speeding.

“Being in this line of work, my initial thoughts were I was being attacked by someone,” Bond said. “I mean, literally, I was scared and tried to get up to defend myself. And when I tried to get up, I realized I was hurt so badly that I couldn’t get up off the pavement.”

The accident happened on LaSalle Avenue near the intersection of  Tide Mill Lane.

“I approached the vehicle and began speaking with the driver that I had pulled over and was in the process of obtaining the driver’s license and registration when I heard the screeching of tires, two vehicles colliding,” said Bond. “I was lucky.”

Doctors say the ballistic vest Sgt. Bond was wearing likely saved his life. He was out of work for eight months and spent two months in a recliner because it was too painful to walk. This was all because a driver broke the Move Over Law.

Virginia State Trooper Sgt. Eugene Desaulniers was hit, too. It happened on Interstate 64 three years ago.

“So many people don’t know that it applies to people other than police. I can’t tell you how many times I’m sitting there trying to clear from a crash and the tow truck driver can’t get out with the vehicle he has picked up because people won’t get out of the way,” said Sgt. Desaulniers. “And I will actually have to go out and take a lake so that the tow truck driver can get out. And they get hit, too. It’s dangerous for everyone involved.”

“That’s the biggest problem with crashes — people not paying attention,” Desaulniers continued. “When I was hit, [the driver] knew I was there and didn’t slow down.”

So, just how bad is this problem in Hampton Roads? 10 On Your Side’s Laura Caso and photojournalist Greg Gadberry rode along with Sgt. Desaulniers to find out. As soon as WAVY’s cameras started rolling, we caught several drivers flying by.

“Look… This guy is flying,” said Sgt. Desaulniers. “That guy was 80 plus.”

A driver doesn’t move over; the trend continues.

“Most of the people in our office have been hit. I would say if you can do this job for five years and not get hit, you’re lucky,” Sgt. Desaulniers said.

There’s a 142 percent rise in the number of “Move Over” convictions in the Commonwealth from 2010 to 2016, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. What’s contributing? Distractions on the road, texting, eating and even reading a newspaper or applying makeup. Sgt. Desaulniers says people do it all the time.

Law enforcement says the number of convictions should be greater. 10 On Your Side saw dozens of drivers breaking the law when our cameras were rolling.

However, Sgt. Desaulniers says it’s hard to catch “Move Over” offenders.

“Unfortunately, when we are out we are on crash or a stop, we can’t jump out and get to that vehicle,” said Sgt. Desaulniers. “If people out there could obey this law, it would be one less thing for us to worry about.”

These are troopers and officers who, at the end of the day, want to go home and have dinner with their families. So they’re asking you to do your part and move over.

“Afford [us] the opportunity to get home safely to their family,” said Sgt. Bond.

According to the law, a violation can be punishable as a traffic infraction. A second or subsequent violation shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Violators could face up to a $250 fine.

Jursidiction 2010 Convictions 2016 Convictions Percent Change
State of Virginia 973 2,359 142%
City of Virginia Beach 70 71 1%
City of Hampton 31 16 -48%
City of Norfolk 23 13 -43%
City of Chesapeake 19 43 126%
City of Newport News 11 8 -27%
City of Suffolk 0 48
City of Portsmouth 14 16 14%