In the early hours of the morning on September 22nd, a semi-trailer struck a parked fire engine in the right lane of the I-20 in Douglas County. The driver of the semi was killed on impact, while the two firefighters inside the fire engine escaped unharmed, likely because they were still wearing their seatbelts, according to local officials.
At the time of the accident, the fire engine was blocking off the right lane to protect emergency responders who were attempting to rescue a driver from a previous wreck. That driver had to be taken to a local hospital, but is expected to recover.
Drivers Are Required to Move Over for Emergency Vehicles
As tragic as his death is, the driver of the semi is probably at fault in this case, and his company may be liable for any long-term injuries the firefighters have yet to discover, as well as the damage to the fire engine.
In Georgia, as in most of the U.S, drivers are required to stay at least a full lane away from stopped emergency vehicles with active lights or sirens, or to slow down and be ready to stop if moving over isn’t possible.
On the other hand, if the fire engine was stopped in a traffic lane without its lights on, especially in the dark pre-dawn hours, that would be another story. In that case, the fire department would mostly likely be liable for the trucker’s death.
Failure to Move Over Has Caused Other Wrecks on Georgia’s Freeways
Sadly, accidents caused by drivers failing to make room for emergency, construction, and other authorized vehicles happen all too often on Georgia roads. Just two days before the collision between the semi and the fire engine, two construction workers were seriously injured on the I-20 in an accident involving a stolen truck, and back in May, another firefighter lost a leg in an accident on the I-85. In the latter case, the crash happened while the firefighter was getting out of his truck to assist a victim of a previous wreck, much like the firefighters who were involved in the Douglas County accident.
“Move Over” laws are intended to keep emergency responders, and others who work on public roads, safe from exactly these kinds of incidents. Even though drivers of large trucks are generally required to keep to the right, they are not exempt from taking special care around stopped vehicles with flashing lights. When the far right lane is blocked, as was the case in Douglas County, truckers should expect to slow down to at least ten miles per hour below the speed limit to prevent collisions such as these.
If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one due to an accident in a construction zone or on the scene of an emergency response, call The Stoddard Firm to learn about how we can help.