Imagine cars and even tractor-trailers whizzing by your desk at 65 mph, any one of which, with a little carelessness, could put you in the hospital.

That’s the daily grind for many of Maine’s state troopers, who patrol the interstates and the Maine Turnpike and often have to get out of their cars in the breakdown lane.

“It can be unsettling, particularly on the limited-access highways when cars are going really fast and oftentimes there’s not a lot of room,” said Lt. Walter Grzyb, commander of the Troop B barracks in Gray.

Starting today, state police plan an educational enforcement tactic for Maine’s little-known “move over” law.

The law requires that motorists get into the passing lane on a divided highway to give police more room, and if they can’t do that safely, to slow down. But few know about the rule.

A team of troopers will monitor passing traffic on the Maine Turnpike in York today while an officer is parked in the breakdown lane as if interacting with a motorist. In the coming weeks, the team will be moved to different locations on the highway.

Troopers will hand out informational leaflets that show a cruiser demolished by a tractor-trailer, and electronic message boards will remind motorists of the law.

The law doesn’t just cover troopers and their cruisers. Any emergency vehicle, including fire trucks, ambulances and tow trucks, require similar caution.

“The law is designed to give emergency workers in the breakdown lane, and the motorists that are with them, an extra degree of safety from the passing public,” said Col. Patrick Fleming, chief of the Maine State Police. He said 16 state police cruisers have been hit from behind by motorists since 2003.

One of the most serious crashes occurred in 2000 when a driver under the influence of drugs and who hadn’t slept the night before slammed into a cruiser on Interstate 295.

Trooper Michael Edes, now a sergeant and president of the National Troopers Coalition, had pulled over a motorist and was inside the unmarked cruiser when it was hit.

He was nearly killed and was out of work for six months.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]