December 18, 2020

GAO Issues Report Evaluating Effectiveness of “Move Over” Laws to Protect First Responders in Response to Push from Duckworth, Durbin, Fischer & Bustos


[WASHINGTON, DC] – In response to a request from U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Deb Fischer (R-NE) and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17), the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) yesterday announced findings from their review of the effectiveness of current “Move Over” laws, the challenges states face in implementing these laws and how the federal government can help states increase public awareness to avoid emergency responders being killed when they are stopped on the side of the road.                                                                                     

“As GAO’s report makes clear, significant works remains to be done to reduce the number of preventable deadly roadside accidents that have killed far too many first responders over the years,” said Duckworth, Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety. “Moving forward, I am committed to working with my colleagues, NHTSA and state officials to support research initiatives, strengthen data collection and ultimately, promote improved policies that save the lives of law enforcement, motorists and other transportation workers.”

“We’ve lost too many emergency responders on the side of the road because of a failure to move over. These laws can help prevent roadside tragedies and I’m pleased the GAO has given states like Illinois a roadmap in increasing awareness around ‘Move Over’ laws,” Durbin said.

“As chairman of the Transportation and Safety Subcommittee, I was glad to join Ranking Member Duckworth in calling for this examination of move over laws,” Fischer said. “First responders are there when we need them the most, and we should always be looking for ways to make their jobs safer. I look forward to examining this report and will continue to work to increase the safety of our roads.”

“‘Move Over’ laws protect our emergency responders, police, fire and other workers who put their lives at risk when they stop on the side of the road to help others. However, dangerous and deadly accidents continue to happen when drivers fail to move over,” said Congresswoman Bustos. “I'm glad to see the GAO issue these findings on how states can take action to increase public awareness, and make sure these laws are followed and our first responders protected."

Key findings from the GAO report:

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is taking steps to better identify crashes involving violations of Move Over laws and plans to convene an expert panel and initiate a pilot project to study areas where the data could be improved.
  • State officials cited raising public awareness as the most serious challenge due to many motorists not knowing the law exists or its specific requirements.
  • These state officials also reported that state variations in Move Over Laws may contribute to these public awareness challenges.
  • NHTSA officials are planning several research efforts intended to enhance the safety of emergency responders, such as studies on motorist behaviors that contribute to roadside incidents as well as technologies that protect these individuals.

Duckworth, Durbin, Fischer & Bustos requested this review in July of 2019 following the deaths of three Illinois State Troopers—Troopers Gerald Ellis, Brooke Jones-Story and Christopher Lambert—who had been killed already that year after being struck by vehicles while they were stopped alongside the road. GAO announced they would be conducting this review later that month.

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Edward Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also joined as co-requesters of this GAO review.

As the Ranking Member of the Senate Transportation & Safety Subcommittee, Duckworth has been a strong advocate of transportation safety across the country. Last year, she introduced the School Bus Safety Act along with Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) to keep students safe and prevent accidents involving school buses. Earlier this year, Duckworth secured commitments from top transportation officials and stakeholders to address important train safety and performance issues.