By Chris Edwards
WOODVILLE – An incident on the night of Saturday, April 29, has the Woodville Police Department reminding the public about the state’s “Move Over/Slow Down” law.
According to Woodville Police Captain Jathan Borel, Officer Zach Zachary was conducting a traffic stop on South Magnolia, near Modica Brothers.
In the area where Zachary instigated the stop, there is a narrow shoulder and a ditch, and while the motorist did a good job of pulling over, Borel said, an individual struck Zachary and his patrol car.
Zachary was reapproaching the vehicle to give a warning, Borel said, and his back was turned to the traffic flow.
While Zachary and the vehicle only sustained minor injuries and damage, Borel said it is extremely important for motorists to remember the slow down and give awider berth to law enforcement or any emergency vehicles who are at work on the side of the road. Borel said this is especially important for motorists who might have impaired visibility, as was the case with the driver who struck Zachary. He said the lights from Zachary’s patrol car made it difficult to see.
A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper came out to work the scene, and Woodville PD also had assistance from the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office on site.
The statewide “Move Over/Slow Down” law was originally passed in 2003, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), but originally, it did not include service utility vehicles. That was amended in 2019, to include TxDOT vehicles, tow trucks, garbage/recycling vehicles and others, along with police, fire and EMS vehicles that are stopped on the roadside, with emergency lights activated.
The law requires drivers to move over a lane or to slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit when approaching emergency vehicles, law enforcement or service vehicles. Additionally, according to Texas Transportation Code 545.157, drivers must reduce their speed to 5 miles per hour on thoroughfares with posted speed limits of 25 miles per hour.
Violations of this law can result in a fine of up to $200, and the fine increases to $500 if there is property damage. If violators cause bodily injury, they can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, resulting in possible jail time and a maximum fine of $2,000.
According to a statistic from the DPS, troopers have been involved in 65 stationary crashes where either the trooper or their vehicle was struck while stopped on the side of the road, between 2016 and 2020.