KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- Vermont State Police Sgt. Brian Turner said the idea for a recent directed patrol came to him as his cruiser shook while writing traffic tickets.
He said the shaking was caused by other vehicles passing close by as they went along their way. Under Vermont law, motorists coming up on a parked emergency vehicle flashing blue, red, or amber lights or running a siren must move into the next lane, safety permitting, or slow down when they go by.
The VSP and other law enforcement agencies often perform "directed patrols," in which they increase their presence in specific areas and target one type of violation, typically driving under the influence of alcohol, or speeding.
Turner said that on Tuesday he and three other troopers set up a patrol specifically for the move over law on Route 7 in Bennington, near Exit 2. He said one lightly marked VSP vehicle was parked in front of another which had its blue lights flashing, all to simulate a traffic stop. Turner said it was done in an area where there was another lane drivers could move into.
"It was amazing how many people didn't give you an inch," he said.
Between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. state police stopped 17 cars, issuing seven tickets and six warnings for "unsafe approach upon a law enforcement officer," the legal name for the move over law. In addition, one ticket was written for speeding, another for a suspended license, and four warnings were given for defective equipment.
According to Turner, $1,648 in ticket fines were written. He said drivers who didn't move over but did slow down got warnings.
Many of the people fined for the move over law were not aware of its existence, said Turner. "We had a few who where pretty ticked," said, including some New York state residents who were also not aware of their own state's recent enactment of a move over law.
"It was a very eye-opening experience," Turner said, adding that while on routine patrols he and other troopers are aware of people "buzzing" them but are too busy to take an accurate count of how often it happens. He said given the number of violators on this patrol and people's seeming lack of knowledge on the law, it's likely the VSP will do more of them.
According to the statute, violators can face a maximum $243 fine or up to five points on their driver's licenses.
Turner said drivers not giving leeway to emergency vehicles is a serious issue across the country and cited statistic from the National Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation saying between 2002 and 2011, 140 police officers were killed from being hit by passing cars.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr