In an effort to bolster roadside safety, Alabama is on the cusp of enacting legislation that intensifies the consequences for drivers who disregard the safety of emergency personnel on the highways. The proposed legislation, aiming to amend Alabama’s Move Over Act, seeks to impose stricter penalties on violators, potentially affecting their wallets and driving records significantly.

Representative Rhett Marques of House District 91 is the driving force behind this legislative initiative, known as the “John Hubbard Move Over Act” (HB 315). This bill, which has recently made its way through the House, is a tribute to John Hubbard, a tow truck operator tragically killed in 2016 while attending to a vehicle on the Interstate in Tuscaloosa County.

Marques’s advocacy for this bill is driven by a stark reality: the perilous conditions faced by individuals working on the roadways, from emergency responders to utility workers, which result in an alarming number of fatalities each year. According to AAA, an average of 24 emergency responders, including tow truck drivers, lose their lives annually under such circumstances.

The “John Hubbard Move Over Act” proposes a substantial increase in fines for repeated offenses, escalating to $300 for a third violation, coupled with a possible suspension of driving privileges for up to 90 days. Furthermore, the bill introduces criminal repercussions for those whose negligent driving behaviors, such as DUI or texting while driving, result in injury to roadside workers, potentially categorizing such offenses as felonies.

Marques expressed optimism regarding the bill’s capacity to effectuate change, emphasizing its importance in safeguarding the lives of those who work in vulnerable conditions along the state’s highways. “If this saves one life, whether it be a construction worker who’s on the side of the road or a utility worker who’s trying to restore power or a law enforcement officer, I think it’s a win,” Marques articulated, underscoring the human value behind the legislative effort.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, represented by Senior Trooper Brandon Bailey, echoed this sentiment, highlighting the preventability of such tragedies. Bailey stressed the impact of raising awareness about the dangers faced by Department of Transportation workers and law enforcement officers, aiming to foster a greater adherence to the Move Over Law through the proposed stricter penalties.

The bill now awaits deliberation in the Senate, where it enjoys the backing of influential figures such as Senator Gerald Allen, chairman of the Transportation and Energy Committee. Marques is optimistic about the bill’s swift passage through the Senate, anticipating it will garner substantial support given its critical importance to road safety.

If enacted, the “John Hubbard Move Over Act” represents a significant stride towards protecting those who serve the public on Alabama’s roadways. By reinforcing the legal obligations of drivers to yield and slow down for emergency and utility vehicles, the state aims to significantly reduce the risks faced by its roadside workers, ensuring their safety as they perform their crucial roles.

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