NASHVILLE – The next time you see an electric utility vehicle working on the side of the road, slow down and give it room. The workers will appreciate your courtesy, and a new Tennessee law requires it.
Legislation signed by Gov. Bill Haslam on April 5 expands Tennessee’s Move Over law to include electric and other utility vehicles. Police, fire and highway construction vehicles were already covered before the law’s expansion. However, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and its member cooperatives recognized the need to include electric and other utility vehicles.
Effective July 1, motorists approaching a utility vehicle with flashing lights are required to move over if safe to do so, creating an empty lane buffer. When changing lanes is not possible, motorists must reduce speed.
“Electric utility workers have a dangerous job,” says Mike Knotts, director of government affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, “and the expansion of the Move Over law makes their working environment safer.”
Roadway crashes are the leading cause of occupational fatalities in the United States. The Tennessee Department of Safety reports that more than 100 highway and street construction workers are killed each year as a result of vehicle crashes or equipment accidents on the job. Another 20,000 are injured.
Tommy Campbell, a lineman for Duck River Electric Membership Corporation in Decherd, knows all too well the dangers of working near traffic. Campbell was struck by a vehicle while retrieving a tool from a bin on the side of his truck. The impact threw him over the hood and windshield of the oncoming vehicle and into the air before landing in the street. His injuries required major surgery.
“I knew my foot was severely injured,” says Campbell about the accident. “I worried I would not be able to climb poles anymore. My father was a lineman, and that is what I love doing.” Fortunately, Tommy resumed climbing poles one year after the accident.
“This is a great law for utility workers,” Campbell says. “We have to get the word out and make the public aware. Drivers must slow down when approaching utility vehicles.”
“We appreciate the Tennessee General Assembly and Gov. Haslam for protecting Tennessee’s utility workers, and we are especially grateful to Sen. Steve Southerland and Rep. Phillip Johnson for sponsoring the legislation on our behalf,” says Knotts.
The Tennessee law is the first-of-its-kind in the country. North Carolina’s Move Over law includes utility workers but only during emergency situations such as storm restoration. Tennessee’s law applies anytime utility vehicles are working with flashing lights.
Additional information on the Move Over expansion can be found at moveovertennessee.org.