Prince George's County Fire/EMS Chief Marc Bashoor spoke out after two cars crashed into stationary on-duty Greenbelt and Branchville fire engines in separate Beltway incidents during the last month.
He reminded drivers Monday that violation of Maryland's move-over law is a primary offense with a fine of $110 and one point. He also said fines and points escalate if drivers don't move over and are involved in a crash.
At around 2:45 a.m. Saturday, a 2005 on the inner loop of the Beltway between the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (Rt. 295) and Annapolis Rd. (Rt. 450) interchanges. Later, a second car crashed into the Lexus—narrowly missing firefighters.
Praising Greenbelt's efforts to provide protection at the accident scene, Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Spokesman Mark Brady said, “Once again, ‘barrier protection’ has been the difference between going to a funeral and going to the repair shop.”
Barrier protection typically involves using a fire engine as a shield from oncoming traffic to protect firefighters, medics, police officers and civilians.
Though the engine did its part, it suffered for it—to an excess of $30,000 in damages, according to Brady, while the Branchville fire engine, which was struck on Aug. 18, suffered more than $50,000 in damages.
In Greenbelt's case, it was the city's last standing fire engine. Its other engine was significantly damaged, leaving two firefighters injured, following a crash on Sept. 1 because a vehicle failed to yield right-of-way—one week to the day before the second engine was struck, according to Brady.
Distractions may have played a role in the recent crashes into county fire engines, but police are also investigating the possibility of alcohol playing a factor, according to Brady.
Bashoor emphasized not using handheld devices while driving and never drinking or using drugs while driving as well.
He said, “our concern for responder and worker safety at traffic incidents has never been greater," and shared his discomfort with the growth of driver inattentiveness due to handheld and information technology.
“Any time you see an emergency vehicle stopped in the roadway with lights flashing— SLOW DOWN, MOVE OVER, and ABOVE ALL, STAY ALERT!” Bashoor wrote. “Help us avoid yet another needless tragedy…”
The details of the move-over law are spelled out by Bashoor on the Prince George's Fire Department (PGFD) blog, in brief, they include advice that drivers approaching from the rear of an emergency vehicle that is stopped on a highway should, if possible, change into an available lane not immediately beside the emergency vehicle.
If moving to another lane is not possible, the law requires drivers to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing conditions, according to the blog. To see the full details, visit the PGFD Blog.