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Move Over, It’s the Law . . . Still!Trooper Gary Cutler Column

I know my readers would never intentionally break the law, or endanger anyone’s life.  So this time I wanted to talk to you about the move over law.  By the end of the article, I want you to be knowledgeable about the law and then to go have a conversation with someone you know.  This could be family, friends, co-workers, or if you’re not the shy type, perhaps a stranger.  This is the only way we can get control of injuring or killing officers in the line of duty.

The road has been my office for the past 14 years and as a motorcycle officer for the last 11 years.  I can tell you that over those years during traffic contacts there has been more than one time I have had to run out of the way of a car drifting out of its lane heading towards me.  None of the times I was almost hit was by someone trying to hit me; they just weren’t paying attention to driving.  That means they weren’t able to correctly do the only thing they were supposed to accomplish sitting behind the wheel.  I can assure you the officer will be anything but sympathetic when he catches up to the driver that has almost hit him.

A lot of traffic enforcement officers spend a large amount of time standing somewhere on the roadway during their shift.  Remember, this is their office.  Try to think of it this way, you’re sitting in your office and every day cars speeds by your chair going 65 MPH a foot and a half from you.  Oh and by the way, sometimes they may actually hit your chair.  If this happened to the average person every day, I guarantee people would be changing their driving habits immediately.  They would demand it, because that is absurd behavior to have to put up with every day.

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Highway 91 at Fremont Pass north of Leadville Today looks clears at 7:30 a.m. before today’s (Jan 6) forecasted winter storm moves in soon.

Now you know what it feels like to work the road as a law enforcement officer, let’s look at the move over law itself.  It is a law that requires drivers to move over for a patrol car, maintenance vehicle, or tow truck on the shoulder of a roadway with 2 adjacent lanes in the same direction.  The law states a driver shall exhibit due care and caution and yield right of way by moving into a lane at least one moving lane apart from the authorized vehicle. 

To be able to move over in moderate to heavy traffic requires the driver to be paying attention to what’s happening ahead of them.  I’m not talking about just the car in front of you.  It requires scanning as far out as you can to know what’s coming up.  If you see flashing lights don’t wait to the last minute to move over.  Do it as soon as possible, that way you do not have to be right on top of the officer on the shoulder when you’re looking behind you trying to change lanes.

If you are unable to move over due to a large amount of traffic then you are required to significantly slow down.  It states the driver shall reduce and maintain a safe speed and proceed with due care and caution. There is no specific speed given, but I can tell you it is not lowering your speed by just 5-10 MPH.   Coming from someone that has worked the road, that is not slow enough, and a law enforcement officer will be talking to you.

Please do this for anyone on the side of the road, not just us.  And now you know the facts.

As always, safe travels!

Writer and Trooper Gary Cutler is a Public Information Officer for the Colorado State Patrol.

 

Flags Fly for Fallen Marine in Leadville Today

Residents and visitors will see the flags out on Leadville’s Harrison Avenue today and pause to think: Why? Why does Leadville display its flags on December 16?

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NEVER FORGOTTEN. Flags are flown on historic Harrison Ave in Leadville every December 16 to honor Marine Nick Palmer who gave his life for the country. Pictured here placing a flag is Nick’s mother Rachele, who with her husband Brad Palmer and a small group of volunteers make sure the flags are displayed in remembrance of their son. Photo: Leadville Today/Kathy Bedell.

If you’ve lived in Leadville for any length of time, the name Nicklas J. Palmer will answer that question.  For it was on this date, in 2006, that 19-year-old Marine Lance Crpl Nick Palmer from Leadville was killed in the line of duty in Fallujah, Iraq. Since that horrific day when the news of Nick’s death reached home, there have been countless tributes to this young man’s courage and valor. In addition to the annual flag display every December 16 in Leadville, there’s another tribute that hundreds of motorists drive past or on every day: Fallen Heroes Highway.

In 2010, the stretch of Colorado Highway 91 between Leadville and Copper Mountain, connecting Lake and Summit Counties was renamed the Fallen Heroes Highway, with the passage of Resolution 10-040. An effort driven by Nick’s parents, Rachele and Brad Palmer of Leadville, the highway’s re-dedication was supported by then State Representative Christine Scanlan and State Senator Mark Scheffel who helped secure the road’s dedication.

There are now two signs that commemorate the roadway’s re-naming, the first sits near the juncture of Highways 91 and 24, north of Leadville, and the second is installed off Highway 91 just south of the Copper Mountain parking lots. Along with the signs, a plaque is also installed under each one, listing the names of additional fallen heroes, including military and first responders

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Lake County Public Works Director Brad Palmer installs the plaque at the Fallen Heroes Highway sign below the Summit County highway sign near Copper Mountain. Photo: Leadville Today

During the October 2016 ceremony, a second name was engraved on the plaque, honoring Pilot Patrick Mahany who died in July 2015. Readers may recall the Summit County emergency responder whose Flight for Life helicopter crashed into the parking lot of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco shortly after take-off. Mahany was a Vietnam veteran who first started flying helicopters shortly after he joined the military in 1970.

For these families the loss of a loved one, especially during this time of year, can be painful. So as you notice the flags waving in honor every December 16 or make note of the Fallen Heroes Highway as you make the daily drive to work or ski, take pause. Offer up a prayer for peace, and for the safe keeping of all first responders who sacrifice a lot so that communities and the people who live there can stay safe and protected.

For each and every fallen hero, Thank You for your service and sacrifice for all who live in Leadville Today! RIP Nick, you are missed!

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A crowd of emergency responders, veterans, officials and residents gathered at the Fallen Heroes highway memorial sign on Highway 91 on October 7, 2016. The event marked the unveiling of the new plaques which have been placed at each sign on the Leadville and Copper Mountain locations to commemorate, by name, local Fallen Heroes. Photo: Leadville Today/Brennan Ruegg