Spirit Ride educates drivers on ‘move over’ laws

Spirit Ride
The 'Spirit Ride' reminders drivers to slow down and move over for emergency vehicles, including tow trucks. (June 25, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A nationwide tow truck tour raising awareness about “move over” laws drove through West Michigan Sunday.

The American Towman Spirit Ride started in New York on June 1 and will travel across the nation over the course of 18 months. The goal is to educate drivers about laws that require them to slow down and move over when they see an emergency vehicle, like a police cruiser, fire truck, ambulance or tow truck.

“When we’re out on the side of the road, it’s almost like people believe it’s a courtesy (to move over). They don’t understand that it’s a law,” Jeremy Dykstra, the manager of First Class Towing out of Muskegon, told 24 Hour News 8.

Spirit Ride
The ‘Spirit Ride’ reminders drivers to slow down and move over for emergency vehicles, including tow trucks. (June 25, 2017)

First Class Towing drove the West Michigan leg of the Spirit Ride from Muskegon to Indiana. A caravan of tow trucks honked their horns and flashed their lights along the highway, but the ceremonial casket on the back of the lead tow truck drew the most attention. Painted in red, white and blue, the casket also bears drawings symbolizing the sometimes deadly dangers emergency responders face while on the job.

“It’s an extreme point that we need to get across,” Dykstra said.

It’s a lesson that’s particularly timely in West Michigan: Comstock Township Fire Chief Ed Switalski was killed earlier this month when he was hit by a vehicle while responding to a crash on I-94.

“We just lost a fire chief near Kalamazoo last week because of the same thing we’re trying to promote. You know, people don’t understand that it is an actual law,” Dykstra said. “I think the only time it’s realized is when we actually pick a customer up and they can see it firsthand and a lot of times they’ll get in the truck with us and say, ‘Wow, you know, you guys really have a dangerous job,'” Dykstra said.

Michigan law requires drivers to move over at least one lane or two car widths from any emergency vehicle alongside the road or highway, giving crews safe space to do their jobs.

>>PDF: Michigan’s Move Over Law

If you get caught violating the Move Over Law, you could have to spend up to 90 days in jail and/or pay up to a $500 fine. If you hit and injure an emergency responder, the crime becomes a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and/or up to $1,000 in fines. If a driver kills an emergency responder, they can be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and/or have to pay a $7,500 fine.

Roughly 200 tow truck companies will participate in the Spirit Ride, which should finish in November 2018.