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Turning senseless tragedy into safer roads: The Ted Foss Move Over Law

 Aug. 30, 2018

A vehicle passing a stopped squad car

It’s heartbreaking when a law-enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty. It’s even tougher when the death is as preventable as Corporal Ted Foss’. Trooper Foss, a member of the Minnesota State Patrol, was conducting a routine traffic stop on Interstate 90 when he was hit and killed by a passing vehicle.

That tragedy happened on August 31, 2000, and a law bearing his name was enacted in 2001. But this year, it was strengthened. It used to be that, on a road with two or more lanes going the same direction, drivers had to move over one full lane from stopped emergency vehicles that have their flashing lights activated. The strengthened law, however, includes roads with only one lane going each direction. If it’s not safe to move over, drivers are expected to slow down.

For example, let’s say you’re driving down the right-hand lane of a divided highway and you see that a car has been pulled over by law enforcement. And even though both vehicles are as far to the right as they can get without rolling into the ditch, they’re still dangerously close to your lane. In this case, you should get into the left-hand lane. But what if the traffic is too heavy and you can’t do so safely? The law says to slow down until you pass the vehicles.

And it’s not just law enforcement – the law covers ambulance, fire, maintenance and construction vehicles, as well as tow trucks.

Despite the fact that the Ted Foss Move Over Law has been in place for 17 years, drivers continue to endanger the lives of Cpl. Foss’ colleagues by failing to obey it. Just last year, for example, Officer Bill Mathews of the Wayzata Police Department was struck by a car and killed as he was clearing debris along the side of Highway 12.

That’s why every year around the anniversary of Trooper Foss’ death at the hands of that careless driver, law enforcement agencies such as the State Patrol conduct extra enforcement. But they’re on the lookout all year long for drivers who don’t move over for emergency vehicles. The fine can be over $100, and so far in 2018, the State Patrol has issued 532 citations and 1,536 warnings for the Move Over Law.

Ultimately, every law enforcement officer’s job is to make sure you get where you’re going safely. And although their job carries a certain amount of risk, we can help return the favor – and honor Trooper Foss’ memory – by obeying the law that bears his name.