JEFFERSON CITY – “It’s a consistent battle that we fight on a daily basis.”
Wyatt Schubert, a motorist assistance operator at Springfield’s Traffic Management Center, is one of thousands of responders across the state who puts his life on the line along the highway. In his role, Schubert responds to traffic incidents, assisting drivers and helping to keep traffic flowing. “We need drivers to move over or slow down, but unfortunately, a significant number do not.”
And the results are far too often deadly. In fact, traffic incidents are the leading cause of death for EMS responders and law enforcement officers. To remind motorists what’s on the line, the Federal Highway Administration has declared the week of Nov. 9-15 as National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week.
Every year, 200 roadside workers lose their lives in the line of duty, according to AAA. There were more than 157,000 traffic crashes in Missouri in 2019. As part of the Missouri Department of Transportation’s work to maintain a safe and reliable transportation system, MoDOT emergency response personnel respond to more than 6,000 traffic incidents each month on average.
“Responders working crashes are always in a dangerous work environment,” said Owen Hasson, MoDOT’s traffic incident manager. “As motorists, we can make their job safer by simply taking a foot off the accelerator, turning on a blinker, checking a mirror and switching lanes.”
When motorists approach MoDOT or any other responders or emergency vehicles on the side of the highway with flashing lights, they should move over. Schubert refers to this as a ‘courtesy’ to him and other roadside workers, but in fact, it’s the law. A report from the National Safety Commission revealed 71% of Americans do not know about their state’s Move Over law. Missouri’s Move Over law requires drivers to either change lanes or slow down when approaching stationary MoDOT, law enforcement or other emergency vehicles with flashing lights. To help protect those who protect us, all 50 states enforce some form of the Move Over law.
“When you see emergency vehicles and highway crews with warning lights either on the road or shoulder, slow down, and when you’re able to do so, move over,” said Hasson. “The lives you’re protecting are the ones who protect, rescue and assist you and work on the roads you use every day.”
“Just like you have a mother and father, I have a mother and father. I’m somebody’s child,” said Schubert. “We’re all out here together. Let’s do this as safe as possible. Slow down and move over, so everybody can make it to their destination safely.”