On The Line: Many drivers fail to take move over law seriously


West Michigan lost a fire chief this year.

Comstock Township Fire Chief Ed Switalski was struck and killed by a car while responding to a crash on Interstate 94 in Kalamazoo County. Fortunately, deadly crashes like that are uncommon, but police tell us the close calls happen all too frequently.

Newschannel 3's Kirk Mason went on patrol with Michigan State Police, where our cameras found driver after driver, failing to follow the law and putting police in danger.

It might be surprising to hear what Michigan State Trooper Lena Wileczek said is the most dangerous part of her job.

"In my short career, I have had more close calls of being hit on a traffic stop, by another vehicle, than being in a life-threatening situation with a firearm or something like that," Wileczek said.

Under Michigan’s move over law, if an emergency vehicle is on the side of the road drivers are required to move into another lane of traffic. If that is impossible, slow down.

Wileczek said that one day while on patrol, after pulling over a vehicle, another car flew past without switching lanes and missed her arm by about three inches.

Newschannel 3 spent an afternoon with Wileczek while she was patrolling Interstate 94 in Kalamazoo County. What we saw grabbed our attention!

On one traffic stop, we counted nine vehicles failing to move over. They did not switch lanes when they safely could have. In one case, Wileczek pulled over another driver after she felt the powerful breeze from an SUV passing by, without over as it passed the vehicles on the shoulder. She issued that driver a citation; the driver told her to "shut up and go away."

"When you feel threatened, it of course it makes you nervous,” Wileczek said.

The majority of drivers she stops for failing to move over say they were not going to hit her. But Wileczek said many aren't giving themselves enough margin for error.

Something our cameras witnessed happening over and over again, is the mistake many drivers make: failing to plan ahead.

"It is important while you are driving to not just make sure you are looking in front of you, that you are looking well ahead," Wileczek said. "That you are making sure you are paying attention … if there are possibly accidents, or cars on the side of the road, or emergency vehicles on the side of the road."

Failing to follow Michigan's mover over law can lead to a misdemeanor charge. And if you hit or injure an emergency responder, the charge becomes a felony.

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