Nearly 6 years ago, a Bibb County firefighter working an accident scene was hit and his life changed forever, all because a driver didn't follow a simple law designed to protect those who protect US on Georgia roads.
It's called the "Move Over Law," but is it serving its purpose? 13WMAZ set out to Verify. We collected accident and ticket data from the last five years from the Georgia State Patrol and spoke with the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.
Eric John was the firefighter hit in July of 2013. John was in the emergency lane of I-75 while working an accident. He was hit by a teenage driver who didn't move over. The 6'2", 250-pound John flew over 5 lanes of traffic. He suffered shattered bones in both legs when he landed on the highway.
"That started the big change in my life from that moment to this moment," John said. "Finish learning how to walk again, learn how to mobilize, how to get dressed again and do things for myself."
John spent a number of years in the hospital and can now walk again with a bit of a limp. He even plays the piano with his son at his home in Macon.
The driver who hit John violated Georgia Code 40-6-16, commonly known as the Move Over Law. It says that any driver that comes up on a stopped emergency vehicle flashing its lights should move over one lane if possible. If not, drivers are asked to slow down and be prepared to stop.
"The first thing the law does, it's just basically to save lives," said Roger Hayes, director of law enforcement services for GOHS.
Hayes said officers working traffic stops have to stay alert to a number of things on roadways.
"An officer on a traffic stop has a lot of things to think about. Oncoming traffic is just another added bonus," Hayes said.
They aren't the only ones. The law protects all first responders, utility vehicles, Department of Transportation vehicles, HERO units, and tow truck drivers. Between 2014 and 2019, Georgia State Patrol worked 135 crashes with 98 injuries caused, at least in part, because a driver broke the Move Over Law. That excludes crashes or violations that violate 40-6-163, which deals with not stopping for a school bus.
During that time, the Georgia State Patrol gave out 3,723 tickets for move-over violations from January 1st to April.
"The Move Over Law has been well-publicized and most people know. They just sometimes forget," Hayes said.
While forgetting can sometimes be dangerous, GSP reports zero deaths in the last five years caused by move-over violations.
13WMAZ can verify the law is effective in protecting lives. John said it can be all the difference in changing someone's life for the worse.
"I don't think, or if I'll ever get back to where I was, but at least I'm here," John said.