Troopers to toughen up on motorists in emergency zones

Officers on Friday will start ticketing scofflaws around parked emergency vehicles.

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Drivers who don't slow down or move for emergency vehicles on the side of the highway could find themselves pulled over and facing a fine of their own starting Friday.

For the last several months the Washington State Patrol has been trying to educate motorists on the new Emergency Zone law that went into effect Jan. 1. But starting Friday, troopers will actually write tickets to motorists who fail to slow down or move over when passing parked emergency vehicles along the shoulder of the highway.

Officials say "stings" to catch motorists in the act are not part of the plan. Troopers will ticket motorists on a case-by-case basis or as violations take place.

According to an announcement, the enhanced Emergency Zone law -- RCW 46.61.212 -- expanded on an earlier "Move Over" law, creating a 200-foot zone around stationary emergency vehicles with activated lights. Those include police cars, fire and emergency medical service vehicles, tow trucks and state Department of Transportation vehicles. Fines will double for those speeding or failing to move over when passing through the emergency zone.

The original "Move Over" law was passed in 2007. Since then, however, problems with collisions in the emergency zones have worsened. Between 2006 and 2009, the Washington State Patrol reported 80 collisions involving passing vehicles striking trooper vehicles parked alongside the highway. Officials say the major contributing factors were speeding, driving too fast for conditions or driving while intoxicated.

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