Deadly crash a stark reminder of Michigan's "Move Over" law

Trooper Rick Johnson was hit and killed during a traffic stop on I-94 in 2000.

VAN BUREN COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - As West Michigan mourns Comstock Township Fire Chief Ed Switalski, who was killed while responding to a crash, police are reminding drivers this isn't the first time a motorist has struck and killed a first responder.

Michigan State Police say drivers failing to move over is an epidemic.

It's been 17 years since Trooper Rick Johnson lost his life while working a traffic stop on I-94.

Lt. Dale Hinz works out of the same post as Trooper Johnson did. "Trooper Johnson is out of the school after mine and so he would've had approximately 23 years in the agency like I do now, so it really gives you pause when you think where he would be in his career now."

Trooper Johnson was struck by a 21-year-old driver who said she was distracted by her children and fast food.

"You hope to never see tragedies like these occur, but when it does, it shows you just how fragile life is," says Lt. Hinz.

A year after Johnson was killed, state lawmakers passed the "Move Over" law.

"It requires motorists to move over one lane when traveling on a roadway with two lanes in the same direction like I-94," says Lt. Hinz.

Drivers can be sentenced to 15 years behind bars if they fail to move over and they injure or kill a first responder.

"It's definitely something that we as first responders look for everyday," says Hinz. "We reiterate to our folks to make sure they keep their head on a swivel."

But Hinz says they need help from drivers as well. "A lot of times as motorists, we don't think about how fast we're passing by stationary objects."

The driver who killed Trooper Rick Johnson was sentenced to 60 days in jail. No word yet if the driver involved in Wednesday's crash will be prosecuted.

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