Cars Collide with Washington DC-Area Fire Engines; Police Remind Drivers of State “Move-Over” Laws

1135041_64855755.jpgThe city of Greenbelt, Maryland has found itself with no working fire engines as the result of two accidents in recent weeks. One accident involved a driver who failed to yield the right of way and collided with a fire engine. The other accident occurred when two cars struck the city’s remaining engine while it was blocking part of the Capital Beltway to shield emergency workers. The county fire chief, in speaking about the accidents, reminded drivers in the Maryland portion of the Washington DC area of the state’s “move-over” law, which aims to protect emergency responders helping people after automobile accidents and other crises.

On the morning of September 1, 2012, one of the Greenbelt Volunteer Fire Department’s engines was hit by a civilian vehicle while responding to a residential fire in Berwyn Heights. According to a spokesperson for the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department, the civilian vehicle failed to yield the right of way to the fire engine. Two firefighters sustained minor injuries in the collision. The county described the damage to the fire engine as “significant” and said that it will remain out of service for some time.

Greenbelt’s only remaining fire engine was serving as a barrier for emergency workers, who were clearing a wreck on the inner Beltway in the early morning of September 8. Firefighters sometimes position fire engines across multiple lanes of traffic to protect emergency crews who must work on busy roadways on foot. In this case, the fire engine did its job well. At about 2:45 a.m., a 2005 Lexus passed multiple warning lights and crashed into the side and rear of the parked fire engine. Maryland State Police troopers arrested the Lexus driver for multiple traffic violations. While emergency crews were still clearing the Lexus from the scene, a second vehicle barely missed several firefighters and collided with the Lexus, causing even more damage to the fire engine. That driver reportedly fled the scene, but was stopped further down the road and now faces a similar number charges for traffic offenses. The county estimates that the damage to the fire engine will exceed $30,000.

The Prince George’s County Fire Chief issued a statement after the two accidents, which have left Greenbelt with no functioning fire engines, about Maryland’s “move-over” law. The law, which took effect in October 2010, is intended to protect not only emergency responders, such as police, firefighters and EMS crews, working on or along the roads, but also civilians involved in accidents, bicyclists, and pedestrians. When an emergency vehicle is stopped and has visual signals indicating an emergency, drivers approaching it from the rear must move to a traffic lane not directly adjacent to the emergency vehicle whenever possible. “Emergency vehicles” include nearly any vehicle with government or emergency markings, such as police cars, fire engines, ambulances, hazardous materials vehicles, and rescue vehicles. A violation of the “move-over” law is a primary offense, carrying a fine of up to $110. Most U.S. states now have “move-over” laws, although Washington, DC does not.

At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we help people in the Washington, DC area recover their just compensation when they have suffered injuries in automobile accidents or other incidents caused by the negligent or unlawful conduct of others. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

Up to 25% of US Car Crashes Caused by Distracted Driving and Gadget Use, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 12, 2011
Preventing Red-Light Running Decreases Washington DC Car Accidents, Says Police Chief, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 23, 2011
Preventing Traffic Crashes: NHTSA Unveils Enhanced 5-Star Safety Rating System for New Vehicles, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 5, 2010
Photo credit: ‘Fire fighting’ by eyestar on stock.xchng.

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