Slowing down and moving over for emergency personnel on the road shoulder is state law but the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police wants stepped up penalties for violators who cause injuries, said Ohio FOP President Jay McDonald.
“Too many people have been hurt. We had a Cleveland police officer killed this January. We are trying to raise awareness,” McDonald said Wednesday after a press conference. In addition to Cleveland Officer David Fahey, State Highway Patrol Trooper Kenneth Velez was also struck and killed this year on the side of the highway.
Currently, violators can receive traffic tickets. The Ohio FOP is pushing a bill that would increase the penalty in instances where someone is injured to a first degree misdemeanor, which carries up to six months in jail and $1,000 fine. State Reps Tom Patton, R-Strongsville, and Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati, plan to introduce legislation later this week.
Patton said he wants to get the Move Over message out to motorists. “There are times you can’t get over but you can at least slow down,” said Patton, whose ties to law enforcement include his father, brother, four nephews and his late son.
Patton noted “The guy who killed Officer Fahey got $177 ticket. A fine.”
McDonald noted that there are 35,000 police officers in Ohio.
“Just as the fearless men and women of Ohio’s police force keep us and our communities safe every day, we must do our part to ensure their safety in the line of duty,” said Kelly in a written statement. “Strengthening Ohio’s ‘Move Over’ law is one way we can help ensure our officers make it home to their families each night, in addition to making us all safer on Ohio’s roads and highways.”
The Ohio FOP sent letters to all law enforcement agencies in the state asking for stepped up enforcement of the current Move Over law and will launch a public awareness campaign that includes radio public service announcements and social media, McDonald said.
In December, Dayton police officer Byron Branch was seriously injured and lost his leg in an accident on I-75.
Centerville Police Officer John P. Kalaman and Washington Twp. Firefighter Robert O’Toole were killed and another firefighter injured on Jan. 12, 1998 on I-675 near Wilmington Pike while assisting at an accident. The accident spurred the Move Over law, which went into effect in September 1999.
In February 2011, Ohio Gov. John Kasich inadvertently drew attention to the law when he called a Columbus police officer an “idiot” for pulling him over for a Move Over violation. The governor later said he regretted his choice of words.
Officer Robert Barrett ticketed Kasich on Jan. 8, 2008 on Ohio 315 for approaching a public safety vehicle with its emergency lights on. Kasich paid the $85 in fines and costs and was assessed two points on his driver’s license, according to court records.