A new public safety push is underway in Vermont after first responders expressed concerns that drivers aren't giving them enough room on the road to do their jobs safely.
Vermont State Police, the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles and the Vermont Governor's Highway Safety Program have teamed up to spread the word about the state's existing "move over" law, including through targeted patrols.
The education campaign comes at the traditional start of the busy summer driving season.
"We want to avoid a tragedy," said Bill Jenkins of the Vermont Governor's Highway Safety Program. "And it only takes a split second to ruin the weekend — ruin their life."
Friday, necn rode along with Trooper Charles Gardner of the Vermont State Police as he patrolled Interstate 91, looking to stamp out a big source of worry for first responders.
"It's a safety hazard," Gardner said of drivers who fail to move over.
The trooper showed the news station how, despite laws requiring it, some drivers just don't change lanes to the left when passing an emergency vehicle parked on the right shoulder.
It happened four times in the five minutes the necn news crew was at another trooper's traffic stop.
Gardner pursued and stopped a driver from Massachusetts, who told the trooper she simply didn't know about the rule.
"You're supposed to move over on the approach of all emergency vehicles," Gardner told the driver.
Drivers who fail to move over may get cash fines and points on their license for failing to move over.
"It's dangerous," said Vermont State Police Capt. Mike Manley. "Throughout the United States every year, there's police officers, firefighters, EMS, highway workers, tow truck drivers — there's accidents every year. People are getting hurt."
"It has a lot to do, maybe, with distracted driving," added Lt. Bob Giolito of the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles. "Cellphones are a big thing — texting and driving."
First responders like Trooper Gardner are grateful for the majority of drivers who do move over properly.
That driver from Massachusetts who didn't shift lanes got just a written warning, promising Gardner that she'll be sure to move over next time.
"Drive safe," he told the driver before she pulled away and continued her journey.
Manley acknowledged that drivers cannot always move over. Sometimes, there's someone in the lane to the left of you. In those cases, police want you to at least slow down and do whatever you can to make the situation as safe as possible for everyone.