If you spot Cpl. John Baker stopped on the side of the road, you may want to change lanes.
Officials say that could save a life and spare you a $165 fine.
Baker, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, is among the thousands of Florida law enforcement agents who plan to keep an eye out this month for violators of the state's "Move Over" law as part of a education campaign.
The law requires drivers to move over at least one lane away from any emergency vehicle or tow truck parked on the roadside with its emergency lights on.
If moving over can't be done safely or when traveling on a two-lane roadway, the driver is required to slow down to 20 mph under the posted speed limit.
Ever since the law was adopted in Florida 10 years ago, state officials have conducted awareness campaigns in February. The month marks the anniversary of the death of Broward Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Seguin, killed in 2006 when a car crashed into him during a routine traffic stop on Interstate 595.
Authorities say that since 1999, 179 law enforcement officers nationwide who were stopped on the side of the highway have been fatally hit by passing motorists.
Capt. Warren Fast, who oversees FHP operations in Broward County , said the awareness campaign is needed to remind motorists about the law.
"This law seems to be deficient in the minds of the public," Fast said. "A lot of them are not aware what it means even though it's been in the books for several years."
Officials emphasized the law applies also to stopped fire-rescue trucks and tow trucks, and to city roads and streets as well as the highway .
In Broward, the campaign kicked off Friday morning with Baker and a crew of fellow troopers picking off violators along the Sawgrass Expressway. Baker, a 25-year-veteran, has been the victim of three on-duty accidents since 2003. In each case, he was parked on the roadside and inside his cruiser writing accident reports. Each crash caused him neck, back and lower back injuries.
"You think about it all the time. You can't put your back to this traffic," the 45-year-old father of three said. "These cars are doing 60, 70, even 100 mph and you are sitting on the side of the road. You don't have any reaction time."
On Friday, it didn't take long for Baker to catch a violator on the Sawgrass Expressway near Commercial Boulevard. With his cruiser's emergency lights on, Baker parked about 100 yards behind two other troopers on the highway's shoulder who were writing speeding tickets. Within a minute, a man in a red Mazda zipped past Baker in the northbound slow lane.
When stopped, the motorist told Baker he hadn't known about the law . He was issued a ticket carrying a $165 fine.
"It's very important for people to realize we have a work space, and our work space is very limited," Baker said. "When we are on the side of the road, we have no place else to go unless it's up on somebody else's car."
Within two hours, the troopers handed out 17 tickets to "Move Over" violators.
In addition to a ticket, Baker and others are giving violators a brochure explaining the Move Over law.
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Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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