Gulf Power reminds drivers to be safe and “Move Over” when crews are working

PENSACOLA, Florida – It’s a risk that Gulf Power crews, as well as emergency vehicle drivers and law enforcement, face on a daily basis ––increasing danger from drivers not paying attention and not giving first responders and their occupants the proper buffer to conduct their jobs safely when out on the state’s roadways.

With the lives of so many first responders at risk every day, the month of January has been set aside by the Florida Highway Patrol as “Move Over Month” to remind drivers of the law that requires passing motorists to move or yield right-of-way to emergency, utility-service vehicles, tow trucks and sanitation vehicles. If they can’t safely move over, motorists should slow down to 20 mph less than the posted speed limit. The purpose of the law is to protect first responders and utility workers from being hit by vehicles passing them at high speed.

“Our crews face the same risks from drivers when they are out on a service call or responding to an outage,” said Rick DelaHaya, Gulf Power spokesperson. “When we’re parked on the side of the road, it increases the danger for utility workers and the law helps protect our workers along with other first responders.”

The Move Over law, enacted in Florida in 2002, is aimed at providing safety buffers for those working or assisting others along Florida’s roadways and to ensure the safety of law enforcement, emergency responders and other public servants while they are performing their duties, with utility and sanitation vehicles added in 2014. If drivers are caught violating the “Move Over” law, they could be issued a ticket which could result in a fine as well as three points on their driver’s license.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) reported 204 crashes and 68 injuries as a result of a motorists failing to move over in 2016. Moreover, law enforcement officials issued more than 5,000 citations to drivers who failed to move over.

Gulf Power crews are dispatched all over Northwest Florida and across the Southeast, responding to power outages at all hours of the night or day and in all kinds of weather. By itself, working with electricity is dangerous enough, but when crews are parked along busy streets or isolated highways, the dangers increase from drivers not giving the trucks and crews the proper right-of-way to conduct their job.

“The safety of our crews is so important,” added DelaHaya. “Probably one of the most dangerous things these guys will do on a day-to-day basis, is work in or near motor vehicle traffic. We want to make sure our workers are safe as they go about the business of getting the power back on for our customers and are able to return home to their families at the end of the day.”

While driving on Florida’s roadways, AAA recommends the following driving tips:

  • Watch for emergency vehicles, tow vehicles, sanitation and utility service vehicles pulled off on the side of the road.
  • If an emergency vehicle with lights flashing is parked on the side of a two-lane road, you MUST slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit and approach with caution, unless otherwise directed by an emergency worker on the scene.
  • Slow down when you see the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle on the roadside, and – if you can – move over into an adjacent lane. If you cannot change lanes, reduce your speed to 20 mph below the speed limit.
  • Pay attention to changes in traffic patterns and speed limits, and look out for motorists stranded on the side of the road waiting for assistance.

Most importantly, never drive distracted or text while driving, said Major Warren Fast, Troop A Commander, of the Florida Highway Patrol.

“Attention away from your driving duties is going to cause danger in the fact that your vehicle will travel hundreds of feet before you even notice it,” Fast said. “Anything that takes your mind off the task of driving is a distraction. “PUT IT DOWN – no text or call is worth a life.”