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Safe Signs

SOUTH POINT – Motorists taking to the roadways will face a new law requiring them to pass stopped public safety vehicles with caution.

Tuesday, November 14, 2000

SOUTH POINT – Motorists taking to the roadways will face a new law requiring them to pass stopped public safety vehicles with caution.

To promote the law, the Ohio Highway Patrol has teamed up with local law enforcement agencies in a public education campaign designed to protect public safety personnel while they are performing jobs on Ohio’s roads.

Signs unveiled statewide on major highways describe the state law that requires motorists to move or slow down for stopped law enforcement and public safety vehicles, OHP Ironton post Lt. Carl Roark said.

"This law is the result of legislation that was introduced on Sept. 9, 1999," Roark said. "Basically, it requires motorists who approach stopped public safety vehicles with lights activated, to slow down and proceed with caution. The Ohio Department of Transportation has completed the installation of the only sign in Lawrence County on U.S. 52 near Wal-Mart Way in Burlington."

The law requires motorists to safely change lanes away from the public safety vehicle if traveling on multi-lane highways such as U.S. 52, he added.

He said the 5-foot by 10-foot sign can only be seen when traveling westbound on the four-lane highway, but serves as a reminder to the traveling public.

"If motorists are unable to change lanes safely, or are on a two-lane highway, they must slow down and proceed with caution," Roark said. "It is important that we have the motoring public use caution when passing an emergency vehicle."

He said the law was enacted after Centerville Police Officer John Kalaman and firefighter Robert J. O’Toole of the Washington Township Fire Department were fatally struck and killed by a motorist on Interstate 675.

"I was one of the investigators at the scene of that crash," he said. "The incident occurred in January of 1998 – in Montgomery County right on the Greene County line – while they were investigating a separate crash at the scene. A passenger car was traveling over the overpass when the driver lost control on an icy roadway and fatally crashed into the two men and a second firefighter."

Family members of the victims were responsible for spurring the legislation to be introduced, he said.

Roark said breaking the law is a misdemeanor violation that carries a mandatory fine and targets flagrant violators.

"More recently, trooper Robert Perez of the Milan Patrol Post was struck and killed in May this year while he was performing duties related to a traffic stop," he said. "Through education and enforcement, this law will make it safer for us out there on the roadway. The ideal situation for us is to not ever have to write anyone for violating the law. It is good faith on our behalf to educate the public We have the the sign in place as the first step in educating the public."