Keeping them safe

Gulf Power reminds drivers to be safe and “Move Over” when crews are out making repairs

The black marks on Gulf Power service technician Daniel Shanahan’s service truck are from a vehicle struck his truck while he was parked alongside a road.

What was supposed to be a routine call to restore power following severe weather nearly became deadly for Gulf Power service technician Dan Shanahan.

Just recently in Pensacola, Shanahan had pulled his service truck up to the work site at night, parking on the side of the road out of traffic. With his flashers and spotlight atop his truck on for safety and visibility, he was preparing to set traffic cones when something hit his truck so hard, it made his water cooler spin around.

Luckily for Shanahan, he was on the opposite side of the truck when a vehicle struck or it likely  would have hit him. The vehicle had clipped his truck, continued down the road, struck a power pole and ended up resting in a ditch.

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 giving the vehicle and their occupants the proper right of way to conduct their jobs safely.

With many of these events turning deadly, the state of Florida passed the “Move Over” law in 2002 aimed at providing safety buffers for those working or assisting others along Florida’s roadways. January was “Move Over” awareness month with the Florida Highway Patrol the American Automotive Association reminding drivers of the law.

The law requires motorists to move or yield right-of-way to emergency, utility, tow trucks and sanitation vehicles. If they can’t safely move over, motorists should slow down to 20 miles less than the posted speed limit. The purpose of the law is to protect law enforcement and emergency 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.”

Last year more than 200 people in Florida were involved in crashes because of drivers who failed to move over for stopped vehicles, and more than 5,000 citations were issued. And only two months into this year, three people have been killed.

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. 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 and go about the business of getting the power back on for our customers.”

The “Move Over” Law was added to section 316.126, Florida Statutes, in 2002. The statute, which was originally introduced in 1971, requires motorists to move or yield right-of-way to emergency vehicles, and in 2014, utility and sanitation vehicles were added. If ticketed for failing to move over or slow down, the penalty comes with costly fines and court fees as well as three points on your driver’s license.

South Carolina was the first state to adopt a “Move Over” law in 1996 after a paramedic was struck and killed while responding to a crash. Since then, every state has enacted such laws, including Hawaii, which in 2012 became the 50th and final state to enact “Move Over” legislation.