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Drivers ignoring Maine's 'move over, slow down' law

Woolwich Fire Department uses a unique approach that essentially forces drivers to slow down, keeping their firefighters safe while on the side of the road.

WOOLWICH, Maine — Drivers are ignoring Maine's "move over, slow down" law.

The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety's social media campaign drawing attention to the law ends Friday, after a month of posts reminding drivers about the potential risks to first responders working on the side of the road.

The campaign started, in part, after two Maine state troopers were hit in separate incidents on the same stretch of the Maine Turnpike over a span of eight days in late December.

RELATED: State Trooper injured in second move-over crash in 8 days

RELATED: State Trooper injured after tractor-trailer rear-ends his cruiser closing Turnpike for hours

The "move over, slow down" law states drivers must

A.    Pass in a lane not adjacent to that of the authorized emergency vehicle, if possible; or
B.    If passing in a nonadjacent lane is impossible or unsafe, pass the emergency vehicle at a careful and prudent speed reasonable for passing the authorized emergency vehicle safely. 

An authorized emergency vehicle as stated in this statute is defined as; a law enforcement vehicle, a fire department vehicle, and ambulances. In September 2007, the law was modified to include wreckers who are at a scene as authorized emergency vehicles. 

The fee for violating the law is at least $326.

Woolwich Fire Department's chief, Michael Demers, said drivers routinely pass his firefighters at high speeds while they work on the side of the road.

"You don't know if we're going to be coming around the side of that truck or walking somebody on a stretcher to the back of an ambulance," said Chief Demers."Sometimes they can't move over because of oncoming traffic. But they can always do the slow down part, and the slow down doesn't mean just a little bit. Slow down, for us, means slow down to a crawl."

Chief Demers demonstrated the department's portable speed bump, made by Astro Optics.

"That's an incredible difference for something that's really so simple. It's kind of sad too that we have to put something in the roadway to make them slow down," said Chief Demers.

With the speed bump in place, drivers were forced to slow down before traveling over it. The speed bump also includes a DOT-approved sign that identifies it.

When firefighters remove it, some drivers still slowed down significantly, but others passed at high speeds.

Sagadahoc County Sheriff's deputy Lt. Dan Quinn was nearly hit twice in the span of two years by drivers who did not slow down.

The most recent case was four months ago, when a box truck hit the side of Quinn's cruiser during a traffic stop. The crash sent debris hurtling towards him, striking him in the leg.

"He told me he thought he was going to die when that truck hit his cruiser. It's scary to know that one of your fellow employees -- a friend of yours -- could have been killed in that moment," said Sgt. Greg Siegel, who works with Quinn. "I just don't know that people are paying attention."

RELATED: Maine police to enforce 'Move Over' law more in 2019

State Police planned to enforce the law more in 2019. Since January, state police totaled these stops:

Move over details conducted in conjunction with the aircraft - 5

Move over stops made - 55

Move over Summons - 35

Move over warnings - 20

Speed Summons - 4

Unsafe lane change summons - 2

Non Moving summons - 3

Non Moving Warnings - 2