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'Move Over and Slow Down': ODOT urges drivers to pay attention after yet another crash

ODOT worker injured
Posted at 10:16 PM, Dec 09, 2021

CLEVELAND — The Ohio Department of Transportation is once again reminding drivers of the state’s Move Over law after a collision on I-271 Thursday.

According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, a driver in a Ford F-250 crashed into two ODOT vehicles just before 1 p.m. Thursday, as crews were working to pick up litter from the side of the road on I-271 northbound near Broadway Avenue.

One worker was treated at the scene and had non-life-threatening injuries, according to OSHP, and the driver of the F-250 was taken to a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

The first ODOT truck hit was what ODOT calls a “crash truck,” according to Matt Bruning, press secretary for ODOT. He described the crash truck as a vehicle that parks or drives behind another crew to warn them of danger if possible and to absorb the shock of a collision.

Dash camera video from the crash truck shows the double impact of the Ford F-250 truck, which Bruning said clipped the crash truck before slamming into the other ODOT vehicle.

“Our trucks are not hard to see,” Bruning said. “They've got high-visibility tape on them. They are highly reflective. They have lights.”

Crash truck ODOT
PHOTO: An ODOT vehicle acts as a crash truck, ready to warn crews ahead of a dangerous crash and to absorb the shock of a collision.

Time and time again, the vehicles of ODOT crews, law enforcement officers, tow truck drivers, and others are hit by drivers who didn’t follow Ohio’s Move Over law.

“When you see a vehicle on the side of the road with flashing lights, you move over if you can. If you can't safely move over, you slow down,” Bruning said, summarizing the law.

According to Bruning, 162 ODOT workers have been killed on the job over the years, dating back to the early 1900s before ODOT was even called the Ohio Department of Transportation. So far in 2021, 141 ODOT crews have been hit, a number that includes people, vehicles, and equipment.

“I think the big thing to remember is that all of those people are people. Those aren't numbers,” Bruning said.

Bruning said he hopes it resonates differently when drivers think of these workers as real people. He also said he thinks the penalties for breaking the Move Over law should be tougher.

“Each one of those people on the road is a person. It's a mother, it's a daughter, it's a father, a son, it's a cousin, an uncle,” Bruning said. “These are real people who have real jobs, who have real families, and things they want to go home to. And it's a real simple thing that they ask you to do to ensure that they can, and that's move over and slow down.”

Bruning said it’s “infuriating” to him that he “can go up to literally any person who has worked on the roads for ODOT and say, ‘Do you have a close call story?’ And they'll say, ‘Yes.’ There's nobody that works for ODOT that has not had a close call, and I'm talking even people who have only been on the job for a couple of weeks. That's ridiculous, and that's unacceptable in my book.”

He urged people to stop driving distracted and to pay attention.

“It seems like all of us on the road are not focusing on the road. Our minds are elsewhere,” Bruning said. “We're not just texting and driving. We're watching videos and driving. We're checking social media, we’re playing games. We're not paying attention to the road ahead. I don't understand it. It's not hard, you know, and people's lives literally depend on that.”

He added, “We can't say it enough. You see people out there on the road, whether it be a tow truck operator, whether it be a law enforcement officer, firefighter, EMT, or, in our case, ODOT employees. You just need to move over, give those folks space. And if you can't safely move over, at least slowdown. It makes all the difference in the world.”

Olivia Fecteau is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.