Putting drivers to the test on whether they follow Oregon's new 'move over' law
PORTLAND, Ore. —
The wife of Matt Barbee, a Tigard police officer, told KATU he still needs 24/7 care after a car crash in December left him with a traumatic brain injury.
Sherrie Barbee said her husband is now in outpatient therapy and can't stand long because of pain issues.
Police said Barbee was off-duty in his personal vehicle when he pulled off Highway 26 in Hillsboro with car trouble. They said a driver hit him while he was waiting for help and that the case is still under investigation.
Preventing crashes like that is the goal of an expansion to Oregon's "move over" law, which took effect in January.
To find out if people are following the law, KATU put drivers to the test.
“It's a very rewarding job to be able to help people when they need it,” Ron Duncan, the vice president of operations for B.C. Towing in Salem, told a KATU reporter.
He’s worked in the business for 25 years, much of that time as a driver.
“I’ve been hit by a car twice. Fortunately, they just grazed me,” Duncan said. “I’ve talked to other tow operators that have actually been in some serious accidents."
Before Jan. 1, Oregon's "move over" law only applied to emergency vehicles, roadside assistance vehicles, ambulances and tow trucks.
If drivers saw one of those vehicles on the side of the road, they had to move over a lane or slow down at least 5 miles per hour below the speed limit.
Duncan said he sees drivers disobeying the law on “almost 99 percent of the calls."
At the beginning of the year, the "move over" law was expanded, requiring drivers to move over or slow down for any vehicle displaying hazard lights or other signs of distress.
Since then Duncan said he’s seen “absolutely no change.”
“We’re on the road every day and we see people with their hazards on and it's like they're not even there,” he explained.
To find out for ourselves whether the new law is working, we put drivers to the test, parking an unmarked KATU news vehicle with hazard lights flashing on the side of I-5 near Keizer.
A photographer and a reporter then stood by and watched.
Over the course of about a half-hour, most drivers cruised right on by not appearing to slow down.
Only a handful moved over.
And when Duncan and one of his drivers, Tim Hall, showed up to start towing the crew we saw more of the same.
“One semi went right past me,” Hall said, describing what happened as he opened the driver’s side door. “It can be really scary. We're only a couple feet from 'em at 70, 60 miles an hour and that's what we deal with every day. … If we're up there workin' and somebody rear-ends this car that we're hookin' on to, I hope to god we're not in the middle."
KATU talked with a few drivers near I-5 to see what they knew.
“Legally, you're supposed to move over into the next lane,” said Adam Finnicum, a volunteer firefighter, who was well-aware of the law.
But other drivers were not, including one woman in Brooks who asked only to go by her first name, Laurie, and another driver in Keizer named Mike Roulier.
When asked what to do if he sees any vehicle with its hazard lights flashing on the side of the road, he said, “Good question. I don’t know.”
“There needs to be more enforcement of it,” Duncan said regarding the law. “There needs to be more publicity of the dangers that anybody working the side of the road faces. … We need to be very conscious. There's humans out there that are very vulnerable and are working in a dangerous place."
“Our medical bills are huge and racking up daily,” Sherrie Barbee explained via a Facebook message, saying she’s providing care while raising three kids and working from home. “Unfortunately, this accident WILL end up causing us great financial harm. There is deep concern as to whether Matt will be able to work again in the capacity he did previously."
Sherrie added that Matt “took all safety measures including putting construction cones around his car” as he was waiting for help.
A GoFundMe page has been set up where you can donate money to help out with Matt Barbee’s medical expenses.