If drivers don't slow down at least 20 miles per hour below the speed limit when there are emergency workers, officers or fire crews working next to their lane, it's now considered a misdemeanor. It also could mean a fine up to $200.
The safety of public servants is exactly what law-makers had in mind when they paved the way for a new law in Texas. It's a reminder to drivers to slow down when troopers, officers or emergency crews are working near roadways. "They should slow 20 miles below the posted speed limit so if it's 70 miles per hour, you would want to slow to 50 mph or slower," says Cpl. John Gonzales of the Department of Public Safety.
The speed law does not apply to drivers who aren't in the immediate lane next to emergency crews, however the law requires drivers to move to outer lanes whenever possible. Something law enforcement officials say could prevent close calls. "I've had several instances when the cars get too close and I've actually ran around cars or jumped on hoods of cars just to get away from getting hit," said Jarred Pierson, an EMS Paramedic.
Corporal Gonzalez says he will drop what he's doing to chase violators of the new law; not only to protect himself but also to protect people like Pierson, a paramedic with EMS. "We were working a car wreck, parked on the shoulder and someone was coming through.. (They were) watching the scene; what was going on, wasn't paying attention and another car, not paying attention, came out clipped it's rear end and it spun around and hit our ambulance. If we had been in the back or had a patient, it would have been really bad."
All Jarred asks is drivers be aware of medical workers, and accident victims near the road, so they can avoid becoming part of the scene themselves. "It's dangerous out there for any emergency responder to be working on a wreck. Curiosity gets the best of a lot of people and as they drive by they're not paying attention."
Emergency workers and law enforcement officers often have their hands full while at an accident scene or even during a routine traffic stop. That's why it's up you as a driver, to overcome the urge to gawk, rubberneck, stare, and likewise preserve the lives of the city's life savers. Not to mention failure to so, could cost you a pretty penny.