Change in light color to alert drivers better
When David Lynn opened his door July 12, 2010, he saw a large truck headed straight for him.
“I pulled my leg back in and braced myself,” he said. The truck slammed into Lynn’s pickup, bashing and ripping metal.
“It was like a cheese grater effect all down the side of my truck,” he said. “If I had reacted any slower, my left leg would have been taken clean off.”
Lynn was shaken, but alive. The wreck left him with a “week’s full of nightmares.” It was not the first time he has cheated death on the job.
In 13 years as an Incident Management Assistant Patrol (IMAP) driver for the N.C. Department of Transportation, Lynn’s parked truck has been hit six times by motorists who did not move into the next lane as they passed him on the shoulder.
The problem, Lynn said, is that drivers do not pay attention to the amber warning lights or move over when they see work trucks on the side of the road, even though it is the law. In 2002, the “Move Over” law was enacted to reduce the number accidents involving emergency personnel.
Everyone is required to move over one lane, if possible, or reduce speed for stopped emergency vehicles along the shoulder of the highway, according to the law. Violators can face a $500 fine.
The price is higher for workers like Lynn, though.
“It can be life or death,” he said. “It’s a very scary situation.”
IMAP operators do everything from fixing flat tires and bringing gasoline to stranded motorists to clearing road debris, diverting traffic from dangerous conditions, and assisting emergency personnel. Every time operators park their bright yellow trucks on the side of the road, they literally become sitting ducks.
That is why NCDOT is replacing the amber, harder to see lights, with seven red flashing lights all over the trucks. In addition to the new lights, the rear of the trucks will have large red stripes added to make them stand out.
The process is already under way across the state, and will continue over the next few months.
The goal is to alert motorists and keep workers safe. But the key to safety, Lynn said, is still making sure motorists pay attention.
“Even with all the lights, bells and whistles, you are still going to get hit if people don’t pay attention,” he said. “Every time you step outside of that truck could be your last. Always look, look and look again.”