BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In an effort to protect first responders at accident scenes, Gov. Larry Hogan has declared Nov. 8 to 14 as Crash Responder Safety Week in Maryland.

The Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration, the Maryland Transportation Authority, the MDTA Police and the Motor Vehicle Administration jointly are reminding motorists to stay alert, move over and slow down when approaching first responders and traffic incidents.

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First responders and highway workers responded to more than 95,000 crashes on Maryland roads in 2020, in addition to thousands of other traffic incidents such as disabled vehicles and roadway hazards, according to the Highway Safety Office. SHA first responders assist a motorist or manage a traffic incident an average of every nine minutes, and their presence at crash scenes prevents 225 to 250 secondary incidents each year, according to an SHA statement.

Since 2016, when SHA first responders were tending to traffic incidents, there were 68 accidents, including five this year. Nationally, 23 highway workers and one law enforcement officer are killed every month at a traffic incident or crash scene. One tow truck driver is killed along a road every six days, according to the American Automobile Association.

Locally, two MDTA officers were hit by drivers who failed to slow down and move over, MDTA Police Chief Kevin M. Anderson said in the statement. Both survived and are recovering, he said.

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“Our officers and highway responders are more than just a man or woman in uniform. They’re someone’s mother or father, an uncle, a sister or a friend. Remember that as you approach an incident at highway speeds,” Anderson said.

Drivers are urged to comply with Maryland’s Move Over law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching emergency, law enforcement, tow truck, and transportation vehicles that are stopped, standing, or parked on a highway with their red, amber, or yellow lights flashing. If it is not safe or feasible to move over, motorists must slow to a reasonable speed that’s safe for existing weather, road, and vehicular or pedestrian safety conditions.

A violation is a misdemeanor carrying a $110 fine and one point on the violator’s driving license. If the violation causes a crash, the fine is $150 and three points. If there is a death or serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points.

“It’s crucial that drivers give their full attention while behind the wheel to protect themselves and others on the road,” MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer said in the statement. “We need all motorists to move over or slow down when approaching flashing lights, whether it is law enforcement, tow trucks, or utility or transportation vehicles. It’s up to us to ensure our roadside workers and emergency responders make it home safe.”

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CBS Baltimore Staff