NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s not uncommon when your car breaks down, that you get out of your car to check and see what’s happened.
However, often drivers don’t move over, because legally they don’t have to.
Now, AAA is pushing to expand Tennessee’s “Move Over Law” and increase the punishment for those who don’t follow it.
For those like Toni Calhoun and Ted Presgraves, it’s more than just a bill before lawmakers, it’s the aftermath of serious incidents they have had to go through.
“I was holding my leg like this, and right here, it was turned around backwards,” said Presgraves, as he pointed to the bottom of his leg.
Presgraves was working as a volunteer with the Tennessee City Volunteer Fire Department when he suffered a leg injury after officials say a U-Haul driver plowed into their tanker on I-40. Captain Presgraves was working the pump panel when the driver of a U-Haul van — later identified as 78-year-old Samuel Farmer — came full speed through the closed lane.
“All I saw was sparks and metal,” described Presgraves. “I remember laying there thinking I’m going to die. Pedestrians don’t get hit on the interstate and live. It just don’t work like that.”
In Dickson County, Emergency Management reports there have been eight emergency vehicles hit on I-40 involving Dickson County within 10 months.
“I remember all the windows busting out, and I could just hear the sound of our sirens and it was loud. [I] did not know what was going on, and I remember the pressure from the truck whenever it hit, the roof collapsing down on my head,” remembered Calhoun from her incident.
She explained the stories are heartbreaking, and many don’t realize how important it is to keep people safe on the road.
“The truck driver that hit me to this day still claims that he did not see a fire truck, did not hear the sirens of the fire truck and did not hit a fire truck. So, I mean, I don’t know where he’s at,” said Calhoun, citing video evidence. “I didn’t care if I got injured at the time, I didn’t care if I died. I just cared that nobody else got hit because of me.”
Currently, all 50 states require drivers to move over for first responders and tow trucks, but only nine states have laws requiring them to move for disabled vehicles on the side of the road, according to AAA. Tennessee is not one of them.
“Unfortunately in the last year, in the Memphis area, we’ve had a paramedic, a firefighter, a TDOT employee and an MLGW worker all killed in the line of duty because of people failing to move over,” said Representative John Gillespie (R-Memphis).
This month, House Bill 0092, would increase the fine for those who don’t move over, and it would change the language of the law to include all vehicles with hazard lights on.
A new study by AAA revealed 60% of roadside workers experienced a near miss while working, and 15% of them reported surviving being hit themselves.
“I would love to see stricter laws. I truly believe that people are at the point now where they don’t believe they’re going to get in trouble. ‘I speed past a firetruck on the side of the road, they’re not going to come after me,’ and that’s what we see all the time,” said Calhoun.
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According to Calhoun, the following are incidents in which an emergency vehicle was hit in Dickson County:
Sept. 14, 2021 – A THP Trooper’s car was hit while parked in a construction zone. The Trooper was inside the car. No injuries.
Sept. 15, 2021 – Two Dickson County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars were hit blocking a lane for an MVA. Deputies and firefighters had just walked away from the vehicles before they were hit. No injuries.
Sept. 22, 2021 – Two THP and Dickson County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars were all parked on the shoulder, working a wreck when a vehicle side-swiped all three cars. One deputy was sent to the ER to be checked after being hit in the driver’s side door.
May 4, 2022 – Dickson County EMA/Fire engine was hit in the rear by a semi while responding to an accident. Firefighter was able to self-extricate. Firefighter was sent to the ER with minor injuries.