VOICES: Ohio Move Over-Slow Down Law has been an important tool to decrease road-side vehicle deaths

We certainly appreciate Public Affairs Manager of AAA Miami Valley Kara Hitchens’ article on Aug. 4 regarding the Move Over-Slow Down Law, and are grateful for the support of AAA and it’s continuing efforts to raise awareness and educate the public. However, we found part of the article to be inaccurate, particularly the statement, “Since 2007, AAA has been instrumental in passing Move Over laws in all states…..”

Actually, Ohio’s Move Over-Slow Down Law was enacted in 1999, following a double tragedy that took the lives of Centerville Police Office John P. Kalaman and Washington Township Firefighter Robert O’Toole in 1998. They had been dispatched to a minor one-car incident in the median strip of I-675, when they were struck and killed by an approaching motorist, even though flashing lights from at least four emergency vehicles were clearly visible. At the encouragement of Rep. Sam Bateman from Milford, we testified before both the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate Transportation Committees. We were present each time the bill unanimously passed each house and were honored to stand next to then-Governor Robert Taft and to have our picture taken standing next to him when he signed the bill into law. We are glad that the original law, which was focused on law enforcement and first responders, has since been expanded to include other disciplines working along our roadways.

After passage of Ohio’s law, we researched the Officer Down Memorial Page, and learned that road-side vehicle deaths of law enforcement personnel occur on a regular basis and that every other state had suffered like tragedies. Some of these states had already enacted similar laws, but most had not. We wrote to the top law enforcement officials in those states, citing statistics particular for their state, and encouraged them to advocate for passage of their own state law. In no way do we claim credit for passage of laws in any other state, but it is comforting to think we might have at least planted a seed.

We are deeply saddened to read that 12 tow service providers, just doing their jobs, have been killed on our nation’s roadways so far this year — that’s 12 too many, but sadly it doesn’t stop there. In 1998 alone, 21 police officers across the nation died from vehicle assaults. That number does not include deaths of other first responders on the scene (fire fighters, EMT’s, paramedics, accident investigation teams, etc). It also does not reflect the number of private citizens also killed in the same incident, nor the number of serious injuries sustained by first responders and citizens who fortunately did survive.

Let’s not forget that passage of our Ohio Law occurred because two public servants gave their lives under avoidable circumstances. This distinction is intensely personal for us since it was a labor born of love, grief, and hope. We are determined that Officer Kalaman and Firefighter O’Toole will not have died in vain and will be remembered for their sacrifice. We will continue to advocate for the Ohio Move Over-Slow Down Law. We remain grateful to Ms. Hitchens and AAA for their nation-wide endorsement. We can never know how many lives have and will be saved, but just one is a victory.

Paula and John Kalaman are the parents of fallen Officer John P. Kalaman.

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