WASHINGTON, PA (KDKA) – There’s a move to increase penalties for drivers who don’t give first responders enough space.

Moving over for emergency responders doesn’t always happen by the book.

“Every time we are on an incident, whether it’s a back road or a major interstate, we absolutely fear for our safety,” said Michael Bedner, a local paramedic.

KDKA’s Celina Pompeani Reports:


 

The “Slow Down & Move Over Law” states that a driver needs to move over one line when an emergency responder, tow truck driver, or public utility worker is on the side of the road.

If there is no room to move over, the law states you must slow down.

“One of the issues is it just says slow down. So if you are going 85 and you slow down to 80, you did slow down,” Bedner said.

A Ross-West View EMS ambulance was struck from behind while at an accident on I-279 in December, and Paramedic Supervisor Matt Smelser was struck and killed on I-70 in Westmoreland County earlier this month.

“There’s no reason we are constantly losing lives on the side of the highway when there are red lights flashing, sirens on, flares up and so many other warnings,” Bedner said.

Smelser is the inspiration behind a new petition to create stiffer penalties for those who don’t obey the law.

“This was so avoidable, just so avoidable. We have safety measures in place, but it’s just not enough,” Bedner said.

The community responded with nearly 5,000 signatures in one week for the petition.

“I know that he would be very happy if the change we are fighting for did come as a result of the tragic event that did occur,” Bedner said about Smelser.

The hope is to keep the petition growing, and in the end, use it as a tool to make changes at the state level with the help of local lawmakers.

Bedner said he would like to see how many signatures he can get in 30 days, and then travel to Harrisburg to start talking to the lawmakers.

If you want to sign the petition, click here.