Globe Editorial

Traffic safety: Stay a lane away from police stops

June 23, 2010

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Massachusetts residents were shocked by the death early Friday of a State Police officer who had stopped one alleged drunk driver only to be hit by a car driven by another. The tragedy is a reminder that the state has a law requiring motorists to move a full lane away from that in which a police cruiser is parked in such situations. The “move over law’’ calls for drivers to give a wide berth not just to police but also to other emergency or maintenance vehicles parked with their flashing lights on. If only more drivers knew about it.

The law, with a $100 fine, requires drivers to slow down and move to the left if they can do so safely. If they cannot, the law still instructs them to slow down to a “reasonable’’ speed. More than 40 states have such laws, which get at least partial credit for reducing the toll of police officers killed on roads from 71 in 2008 to 56 in 2009. That was the year the Massachusetts law went into effect, which means it was not on the books when most of today’s motorists passed their driver’s test. But ignorance is no excuse. The law is a common-sense requirement to reduce an obvious hazard in emergency situations.

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