New 'move over' signs around Montana aim to increase highway safety
MISSOULA, Mont. - New safety signs are popping up across Montana's highways. The "move over" signs aim to protect emergency responders and road crews. The signs reinforce state law and help drivers be more aware. Montana's Move Over Law was originally implemented in 2005. It includes all law enforcement, emergency vehicles, first responders and tow trucks. The law states drivers must slow down and change lanes whenever possible to give emergency responders room to work. As you are driving down I-90 westbound, just west of the Wye, you will see a new sign put up during the month of May. The sign reads, "Move Over: slow down for stopped emergency or maintenance vehicles." "It's scary out there when you are out there on the side of the road, and semis go by you at 65 or 75 miles an hour, and they are not changing lanes," said Captain James Kitchin, with the Montana Highway Patrol. Kitchin says the sign by the Wye is good, because it will alert drivers and provide important information. The signs are placed at borders and populated areas. There are 24 throughout the state. It hits close to home for Kitchin. In August 2005, he was trying to help a pregnant woman and her son. He was in his car inputting information, when the unthinkable happened. "The semi didn't move over, he didn't yield and he pretty much tore the side of my car off with me in it," said Kitchin. His leg was pinned by the door and his steering wheel. He was able to crawl out on the other side of his smashed vehicle. "The people that I was helping got out of the car and helped me," said Kitchin. He got away with minor injuries. "With the more traffic that's out there, people start to slow down, other people aren't being very observant out there so they are not seeing the lights out there right off the bat. They are doing tunnel-vision driving, so they are not aware of their surroundings," said Kitchin. As Kitchin works to raise awareness, he hopes the new signs will improve highway safety. Drivers can face fines if they don't yield or move over for all roadside workers. According to national statistics, one tow truck driver is killed every six days, 23 highway workers and one law enforcement officer are killed every month and six firefighters are killed every year. Local residents gave us their opinion about the new signs. "Hopefully people will understand that if there's lights on the side of the road or anything, that you need to move over to the other lane," said Huson resident Amber Sanborn. "I can understand the idea, but the sign sounds like it doesn't give enough people information," said Missoula resident Rolland Ellis. Click here for the specifics of the Move Over Law.