Law to help protect Peace Officers

A new law went in to effect July 1, 2001, to help protect peace officers and rescue workers parked on the side of the road. The law requires drivers who approach an emergency vehicle, which is parked and has its lights flashing, to reduce their speed and proceed with caution when passing the emergency vehicle. Additionally, if motorists are traveling on a multi-lane roadway, they must change lanes to a lane which is not next to the emergency vehicle, if it is safe to do so.

House Bill 1692, authored by State Representative James Dunegan and signed by Governor Frank Keating, is designed to assist in protecting emergency personnel but does not exempt them from the consequences of recklessly parking their emergency vehicles.

"This was a much needed piece of legislation. Although we hope everyone will comply with new the law, the Department has instructed its troopers to take appropriate enforcement action against violators," said Second Lieutenant Chris West, Department of Public Safety spokesman.

In March of 1999, while parked off the roadway and investigating a collision, Highway Patrol Trooper Micah Whittington suffered a broken neck, and a rear seat passenger was killed, when his OHP unit was struck by a semi along Interstate 40 near Clinton. In January 2001, Trooper Gordon Manning was run over by a motorist while directing traffic on U.S. 259, south of Idabel.

"Although both troopers have returned to work, Manning is still recovering from his injuries" said West.

Nine of the 29 Oklahoma troopers killed in the line of duty died as the result of being struck by motorists while investigating crashes, conducting traffic stops, or assisting disabled motorists. Last year, 11 stationary patrol cars were struck by another vehicle, resulting in four troopers being injured.

"This new traffic law will aid in protecting, if not saving, the lives of Oklahoma law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics," said Second Lieutenant West.