The S.C. Department of Transportation in 2018 unveiled a wall adorned with names of highway workers killed while on the job.
Remembering those having died while working on our highways and roads followed a year after Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law House Bill H. 4033, known as the Highway Workers' Safety Act.
The legislation significantly increased the penalties for motorists who speed through work zones above the posted limits. The fines range from $500 to $5,000 for endangering a highway worker without injury, to causing bodily harm, to the death of a highway worker.
Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall called the law a significant step in protecting highway workers. “We cannot bring back those men and women we have lost, but this legislation stands as a severe warning to all motorists as they approach work zones that they could be putting the lives of highway workers – and their own lives in jeopardy. This new law gives significant and true meaning to our motto; 'Let ‘em Work, Let ‘em Live,'” Hall.
"Let 'em Work, Let 'em Live," indeed. There is no legitimate reason for motorists not to slow their speeds and obey the caution signs regarding highway work. Yet so many do not do so, as Hall noted, risking their own lives and the lives of those on the job.
South Carolina also has another statute that too often is not obeyed: the “Move Over Law.”
The law is essential in protecting state troopers and other law enforcement officers as well as emergency vehicles and utility workers stopped alongside the highway. The list of emergency vehicles protected by the law includes roadside assistance personnel, such as tow trucks and service vehicles. It is also extended to highway workers in temporary work zones.
“The Move Over Law is in place to protect both the emergency crews that are stopped on the road to help someone else and motorists driving on the road,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson. “Adhering to this law will keep everyone safe.”
The law requires drivers – if they deem it is safe to do so – move a lane away from any law enforcement or emergency vehicle on the side of the road. Law enforcement, emergency and utility vehicles should be stopped with lights flashing to alert drivers to move over.
It is also required that motorists slow down and approach cautiously when driving by a stopped emergency vehicle.
Citing recent crashes involving tow truck operators, Charlotte, N.C.-based AAA Carolinas is urging motorists in a new campaign to “Slow Down, Move Over” to help protect emergency workers and law enforcement providing assistance to those in need on the roadside.
AAA is in the business of rescuing millions of stranded motorists across the country each year. Recent data reveal 23 roadside workers and first responders – one every other week – lose their life at the roadside, while hundreds more are injured while assisting motorists.
Drivers approaching a stopped emergency vehicle, law enforcement vehicle, utility vehicle or temporary work zone should:
• Significantly reduce vehicle speed and keep the vehicle under control.
• Approach the scene cautiously.
• If there is a second lane, motorists are required to change lanes away from the stopped vehicle.
• Maintain the reduced speed until fully clear of the situation.
Failure to adhere to the Move Over Law in South Carolina is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $500.
Highway workers -- more of whom are on the roads amid South Carolina's repair campaign-- and emergency personnel put their lives at risk each day. The S.C. Highway Workers' Safety Act and the Move Over Law were established to protect these people. Please obey them.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!