From directing traffic to shutting down drug labs to responding when violence erupts, police officers dedicate their lives to making their communities safe. They know their profession carries danger, they do it anyway and put their own lives at risk for the community. We believe it is our duty as a Panama City accident law firm and as community members with a voice to pay tribute to and remember officers who pay the ultimate price. This post remembers two fallen officers and discusses an important law that, although it wouldn't have helped the first officer remembered, helps protect law enforcement officers and civilians throughout Florida - the so-called move over law.
Over the weekend, motorcycle enthusiasts in town for the Autumn Thunder Beach Rally held a special rider in memory of Panama City Beach Officer Kevin Kight who was killed on the job during Spring Break 2005. As a tribute page from the Department notes, Kight began his law enforcement career in 1995 and began serving Panama City Beach upon relocating his family here in 1998. On March 27, 2005, Sgt. Kight was shot and killed during a traffic stop on a busy street filled with spring break revelers. Participants in this year's memorial ride spoke to WJHG about keeping Kight's memory alive while also supporting local law enforcement. The ride also raises money for families in need via Bay County's Cops and Kids Program.
While it may not have saved Sgt. Kight's life, the so-called "move over law" has protected many other officers (and civilians) from death or serious injury. Florida law recognizes that there is a danger that a vehicle will collide with a prior accident or other roadside law enforcement effort. Pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 316.126(1)(b), when an emergency vehicle is stopped on the side of a multilane road with flashing or another visual signal displayed, other drivers travelling in the same direction must move out of the lane closest to the official vehicle unless otherwise directed.
If this cannot be done safely or when on a two-lane road, the driver must slow to 20mph below the speed limit (or to 5mph for speed limits at or below 25mph). Florida's version of the "move over law" also applies to working sanitation and utility service vehicles as well as wreckers displaying flashing or rotating lights.
Violations of the law have claimed the lives of other brave officers, including Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Chelsea Richard. In May, Richard was speaking with a tow truck driver at a collision site along I-75 when another crash claimed her life and the lives of two civilians.
"Move Over, America," is a cooperative effort involving safety and law enforcement groups. Although the website suggests 49 states have some form of move over law, it now appears to be all 50 (see MoveOverLaws.com). The organization reports that more than 150 law enforcement officers died between 1999 and 2010 after being struck by vehicles along the nation's highways. One such officer to whom tribute is paid on the webpage is Deputy Sheriff Ryan Christopher Seguin who was hit and killed while making a traffic stop on February 15, 2006 along I-595 in Broward County.
Emergency responders are not the only ones protected by move over laws. Both civilians involved in the first crash as well as those passing by are at risk from a subsequent collision. These accidents often involve complex factual and legal issues. An injured person may have claims against the driver at fault in one or both collisions and the defendants may point fingers at each other. Without experienced legal representation, arguments between multiple defendants can actually leave plaintiffs without recourse.
Attorney Wes Pittman understands the complexity of cases with multiple defendants, including where a second collision follows a prior crash. If you have been hurt or lost a loved one in a multiple-event crash in Panama City or the surrounding region, call our Northwest Florida injury law firm. We can help you recover much-needed and much-deserved monetary compensation to help you pay bills, cope with lost wages, plan for future costs, and compensate you for the physical and emotional consequences of your injury and/or loss.