Oct 14, 2021 12:08 PM

AAA: Kansas first responders sound alarm about deadly roadside risks

Posted Oct 14, 2021 12:08 PM
Image courtesy AAA Kansas
Image courtesy AAA Kansas

WICHITA –  A new AAA survey of Kansas first responders, including police, fire fighters, tow drivers and utility workers, sheds an alarming light on dangerous driving behaviors that have resulted, nationally, in hundreds of deaths at the roadside.

92% of Kansas first responders and other roadside workers polled* said they have had at least one near miss incident or felt their life threatened  - with 24% saying it happens "routinely" - because motorists do not slow down or move over for those working along the roadside, despite the fact that Kansas law requires them to do so.

"Nationwide, an average of 24 first responders are killed every year while working along the roadside – that’s a tragic loss of life every other week," said Shawn Steward, spokesman for AAA Kansas. "AAA and our traffic safety partners pushed for passage of the Move Over law here in Kansas but, clearly, there is still work to be done to ensure the safety of any motorist disabled at the roadside and the first responders who come to their aid."

That work, includes a new PSA being launched by AAA this week ahead of National Slow Down Move Over Day on Saturday. The PSA features first responders from across the country who are making an impassioned plea to motorists to give them room on the side of the road to do their jobs safely.  

The AAA Poll of Kansas First Responders* found:

●Almost 60% percent of first responders including law enforcement, EMS, tow truck drivers and roadside workers say that, in their experience, Kansas motorists do NOT slow down and move over for those working along the side of the road

●50% of first responders say they do NOT feel more safe since the Move Over law was put in place

●92% say that they personally have been involved in a near miss incident or had their life threatened because a motorist failed to move over

●With 24% saying it happens ‘ROUTINELY’

Conflicting perceptions

The findings of the first responders’ poll are in sharp contrast to an earlier AAA poll of Kansas drivers – more than 96% of whom said that they do slow down for first responders at the roadside and 95% of whom said they move over a lane whenever safe to do so. But first responders say that is not what they are experiencing.

"Troopers across Kansas have noticed that drivers are not moving over when approaching and passing emergency vehicles and roadway maintenance vehicles," said Lieutenant Candice Breshears of the Kansas Highway Patrol. "First responders and roadway workers are dedicated to making our Kansas highways safer for everyone traveling in and through Kansas. Not only is it a Kansas law to move over, but it is also the courteous thing to do. We want everyone, including our first responders, to make it home safely to their families. Please do your part and Move Over and Slow Down for all roadway workers."

"All first responders should be able to do their jobs along the roads safely, without fear of being struck by a passing vehicle," said Kansas Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz. "Their service to the public is vital. Please follow the law and give these workers the respect they deserve – move over and slow down for everyone who works along the roadway."

Already this year, two AAA tow drivers have been killed while assisting motorists at the roadside - but it’s not just first responders who are at risk. Since 2015, more than 1,600 people have been struck and killed while outside of a disabled vehicle.

Some states have extended Move Over protections to include stranded motorists and everyone at the roadside.

"The goal is not just to make motorists aware of the law. The goal is to change driver behavior and put an end to these senseless tragedies," AAA Kansas’ Steward adds.

*AAA Survey of Kansas First Responders, Tow Truck Drivers and Roadside Workers: Survey conducted via Survey Monkey from September 10-19, 2021 resulted in 248 respondents.

**AAA Poll of Kansas Drivers: AAA surveyed 1,092 drivers between Aug 18-19, 2021. The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, NC and has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

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About AAA
AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to more than 63 million members nationwide and more than 350,000 members in Kansas. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. AAA is a non-stock, membership corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can map a route, access a COVID travel restriction map, find local gas prices and electric vehicle charging stations, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information on joining or renewing a membership, visit www.AAA.com.