By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The Hawaii Police Department expects to start enforcing the state’s “move over” law soon, but wants to make sure the public knows about the law before officers start writing tickets.
Sgt. Christopher Gali, head of the Traffic Enforcement Unit, said the law requires drivers on multiple-lane roads to move over one lane to create a buffer zone between moving traffic and any emergency vehicle with flashing lights on, whether the emergency vehicle is occupying a lane or is on the shoulder. On two-lane roads, drivers are required to slow down when an emergency vehicle is present with its lights flashing.
“It’s for police, fire, ambulance, ocean safety vehicles — even a tow truck on the side of the road, if they’re hooking up a vehicle and they’ve got their lights flashing,” Gali said. “If they’re on the side of the road, lights flashing, if there are multiple lanes, vehicles have to move over, so there’s a lane between the moving vehicle and the police car, fire truck or whatever. If it’s a two-lane road, motorists have to slow down to a prudent and reasonable speed, and they can continue on. But they’ve got to slow down.”
The law took effect when it was signed last July by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. It was spurred by the deaths of Honolulu Police Officers Eric Fontes and Garret Davis, and is dedicated to their memories.
Fontes was killed on Sept. 13, 2011, when he was struck by a pickup truck while assisting another officer with a traffic stop on Farrington Highway near Waipahu, Oahu. The other officer was seriously injured.
Davis was killed on Jan. 21, 2012, when his squad car was struck from behind by a pickup truck on the H-1 freeway in Aiea, Oahu. Davis had pulled over to help a stalled vehicle.
Prior to the bill’s signing, Hawaii was the only state not to have a “move over” law.
“I was on Kanoelehua Avenue (last) week doing traffic stops,” Gali said. “Some people, they move over, some don’t. Maybe they’ve seen about the law in the news, but maybe they think it’s just for Honolulu. They don’t realize it’s a state law; it’s all the islands.
“When I was out there on Kanoelehua there was this Jeep, he just flew by, he didn’t even slow down, didn’t move over a lane. He was right next to the officers on the shoulder and he was in the right lane, Hilo-bound on Kanoelehua and he just whizzed by. You could feel the wind. It was nighttime and there wasn’t much traffic, but he could have easily moved over to the next lane and this person didn’t.”
The law is a petty misdemeanor, and violators could be subject to fines of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to 30 days.
A Honolulu television station reported last month that Honolulu police had issued 119 tickets for violations of the law since it had gone into effect, with 62 of those citations written in December alone.
“We haven’t issued any citations here yet,” Gali said. “We want to educate the public and let them know about it before we start issuing citations. We can write tickets, but I think the public needs to be educated first.”
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.