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The death of a local tow truck operator on Interstate 77 is a stark reminder that Virginia's "Move Over" law also applies to these first responders, just as it does to police, fire and rescue workers assisting motorists on our highways.
In fact, Virginia State Police issued a reminder alert about the Move Over law just two days before Russell Nelson of Hillsville was struck by a vehicle and killed over the Memorial Day weekend.
The law mandates that motorists change lanes away from emergency vehicles if safe to do so. If unable to change lanes, the driver should proceed with caution. There are 49 states with Move Over laws.
Tow truck operators are crucial to clearing accident scenes and getting traffic moving, and they should be afforded the same respect and given the same layer of protection on the roadside as other emergency workers.
We haven't seen statistics for deaths or injuries of tow truck operators like Nelson, but state police figures show that the fourth leading cause of death for law enforcement officers is being struck by a vehicle.
Nationwide, in 2011 and 2010, 25 on-duty law enforcement personnel were struck and killed by a vehicle, according to state police.
The Move Over law has been on the books in Virginia since 2002, and was amended in 2010 to include two truck operators and other emergency or maintenance vehicles.
So, it's not just red and blue lights you need to be cautious of, but also the amber lights of workers maintaining the roads.
In the words of Capt. Stephen D. Childress, Virginia State Police Wytheville Division Commander, "Protect those who work to protect you."