EDITORIAL: Safely share the road, stop for emergency vehicles

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Warm weather finally arrived over the weekend with lawnmowers running, kids playing outside, birds tweeting and another familiar sound filling the air: fire sirens.

In recent days, the Powell Volunteer Fire Department responded to multiple out-of-control burns — a sure sign of spring in Wyoming.

With an increase in fire calls, it’s a good reminder for drivers to safely share the road with firetrucks and other first responders.

When you see an emergency vehicle approaching with its sirens blaring or lights flashing, it’s not just a courtesy to pull over. It’s the law.

State law requires drivers to pull over to the right-hand edge (but not in an intersection) and remain stopped until the emergency vehicle has passed. Unfortunately, some drivers fail to stop, potentially slowing down a firetruck, police officer or ambulance en route to an emergency. If your home was on fire, or your loved one was in a car accident, you would certainly want first responders to arrive as quickly as possible. Don’t get in the way of slowing down an emergency response for someone else.

In worst-case scenarios, other drivers actually create another emergency situation for first responders speeding down the highway. Over the past decade, more than 1,970 crashes have occurred on Wyoming roads involving fire trucks, ambulances, law enforcement, tow trucks, snowplows and other service vehicles, according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

Beginning in July, drivers will be required to move over for maintenance, construction and utility crews and vehicles on Wyoming’s roads. During the 2018 Budget Session, legislators modified the state’s Move Over law to include those vehicles. For more details about the new changes, see Page 5 of today's edition (April 24) of the Powell Tribune.

“We now have to educate people about the importance of moving over,” said Tony Avila with WYDOT in a news release Monday. “It’s hard when you have to call the families of crew members who were taken to the hospital for injuries. My worst nightmare is calling a family and telling them it’s much worse. I want all my workers to go home safe.”

Though we’ve hopefully seen the last of snowplows for a while, we’re now entering road construction season. Be sure to watch for crews working alongside the road, and move over, slow down or stop, depending on the situation.

Drivers also should be aware of tractors and other agricultural equipment on Wyoming’s highways this spring. We share roadways with tractors and other vehicles that may be moving slowly, making it especially important to pay attention.

When you’re behind the wheel, be sure that driving is your top priority. It’s an inherently dangerous task that requires your full attention. Text messages, phone calls and other tasks can wait. Distracted driving doesn’t just put you at risk, but also everyone else in your pathway.

With warm weather’s arrival, Wyoming’s roads will likely see an increase in traffic. Drive carefully to ensure you reach your destination safely — and that others do, too.

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