Renewed push for highway safety highlighted by deputy’s death

Reporter: Peter Fleischer Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

There’s a new push to improve highway safety as the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office and the community mourn the loss of a 23-year-old deputy.

Anyone who drives on the interstate can see the need. On Tuesday night, Deputy Christopher Taylor was killed on the side of the road, where he should have been safe.

It’s avoidable deaths like this that are pushing the “Move Over” initiative. AAA has launched a more cautious “Move Over” safety plan.

Currently, drivers must slow down and move over one lane if a utility or emergency vehicle is on the side of the road. Under AAA’s new plan, drivers would be required to slow down and move over for any disabled vehicle.

Fewer than 20% of states currently have that kind of safety law, but AAA said it could be the difference between life and death.

“Right now, there are move-over laws across all 50 states, but there are only eight states that currently protect disabled motorists. We’d like to see Florida become one of them,” said AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins. “At the end of the day, this would save lives. Nationwide, nearly 350 people are struck and killed outside of a disabled vehicle every year.”

Statistics show Florida is struggling with roadside accidents and deaths.

This latest tragedy happened in Charlotte County, but there have been law enforcement vehicles hit on the side of the road in both Lee and Collier counties earlier this year.

In Collier County, the trooper was not injured, but a drunk driver hit the deputy’s car on the side of the road.

The same thing happened in Lee County earlier this year. The driver got cited for careless driving but was not impaired.

These accidents can happen in many different ways, but the risks are equally scary. AAA has pushed for stricter “Move Over” requirements regarding disabled vehicles, and they say Florida has a roadside safety problem.

“Florida is third in the nation for most people killed on the roadside in a crash. At the end of the day, we’re just looking to protect lives and save as many of them as we can,” said Jenkins.

Charlotte County is historically tough on drunk driving crimes. The county has a 90% DUI conviction rate, according to the most recent data available.

Cassandra Smith faces a DUI manslaughter charge in the death of Deputy Taylor. That charge can carry up to 30 years in prison for a first-degree conviction.

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