AUSTIN, Texas - Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS) is using Crash Responder Safety Week to provide safety tips for drivers, and highlight the leading cause of traffic crashes.
"We have certainly, unfortunately, seen some serious injuries, some even fatal injuries around Texas and in the area involving crashes being worked along the roadsides," says Austin-Travis County EMS PIO Captain Darren Noak.
Changes to the "Move Over or Slow Down" law went into effect Sept. 1 in the state of Texas, adding heftier penalties for violations. The law aims to protect roadside workers and improve highway safety by requiring drivers to move over a lane, or reduce speed by 20 mph below the speed limit when passing law enforcement, utility trucks, wreckers, emergency, and TxDOT vehicles stopped with their overhead lights activated.
"First and foremost, the priority is to move over. If you have the ability to move out of that lane close to where that activity is going, please do so," says Captain Noak.
Not abiding by the law includes a fine of $1,250 for a first offense.
"It can be a very dangerous environment for us to work in," says Captain Noak.
According to ATCEMS, last week, there were a total of 220 traffic crashes, and the week prior there were 235 collisions.
"As far as the traffic collisions that we respond to around the area here, they tend to remain fairly constant week to week when you compare them week to week," says Captain Noak.
Captain Noak says not focusing on the roadway is what leads to most crashes.
"Avoid those distractions like texting, talking, being distracted by other people in your vehicle, putting on makeup, eating, drinking coffee, whatever it is," says Captain Noak.
He says another way to prevent a crash is by controlling your speed and being aware of your surroundings.
"Our primary purpose is to take care of our patients, but we want to do our job, and we want to come home safe and sound for our loved ones as well," says Captain Noak.