With changes made to Montana’s Move Over Law going into effect on October 1 and winter driving conditions nearing, Three Forks Volunteer Fire Department Chief Keith Aune recently discussed the dangers while responding to a call on Interstate 90.
“I have said multiple times I feel one of my firefighters could be killed on the Interstate versus on a fire. We have control of the fire. We cannot control the people out driving that are not paying attention,” Aune said.
Changes made to the Move Over Law during the 2023 session of the Montana Legislature require drivers approaching a stationary emergency, towing, maintenance, or construction vehicle to slow down 20 miles below the posted speed limit on the Interstate if a temporary speed is not posted.
If drivers cannot move lanes, they must go half the posted speed limit. The changes to the law will require drivers on state highways or county roads to slow down by 30 miles per hour below the posted limit. Utility workers are now under the protection of the Move Over Law.
According to the non-profit Move Over Montana, the “changes create a clearer definition of a driver’s responsibility as well as include personnel from the Utility profession who routinely work along Montana’s roadways and require the same safety and room to work as other roadside professions.”
When on a call on the Interstate, Aune said on a scale of 1 to 10, people not moving over is close to a 9. He added the new law will be great as long as there is someone to enforce it.
For Camille Bjorndal with the Willow Creek Volunteer Fire Department, drivers not getting over for emergency responders is something she sees far too often.
“A lot of time, I think it’s that people don’t really pay attention to what is going on until they are right at the scene. We have had a few times where we have had to jump out of the way of a vehicle,” Bjorndal told the Voice following a string of accidents in the winter of 2021.
Following a 24-hour period with 58 accidents in Gallatin County in 2021, Captain Matt Boxmeyer of the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office discussed the importance of drivers moving over on the scene of an accident.
“We have our lights on for a reason. When we have our lights on and are pulled over, we have people outside the vehicle, and that’s a really dangerous position for our deputies. Especially at night where visibility can be greatly reduced,” he said.