After 19 years of trooper’s death, grant allocated to enforce TN ‘Move Over’ law

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has granted $172,000 to Tennessee Highway Patrol and other state agencies to improve the enforcement of TN’s “Move Over” law. This law was passed after the unfortunate death of a Dickson County trooper in 2005. Thanks to this grant, the law can be better enforced to ensure the safety of all drivers on Tennessee’s roads.

On July 8, 2024, it will be 19 years since Trooper Todd Larkins tragically lost his life while performing a routine traffic stop on the side of I-40 in Dickson County. At the time of the incident, Trooper Larkins was just about to celebrate his 32nd birthday, making his untimely death all the more heartbreaking.

Alicia, Larkins’ widow, expressed that it was the worst day of her life.

Officials have stated that the individual who caused the tragic death of Larkins was penalized with a $50 fine and a three-year probationary period, as well as a one-year revocation of his license.

The passing of Larkins played a crucial role in the creation of the Move Over law, which was enacted in 2006. The law has been updated as recently as last year and now mandates drivers to either move over when it is safe or reduce their speed for any vehicle that is on the side of the road.

It is unfortunate that even with the Move Over law in place, first responders, TDOT HELP truck drivers, and others are still getting hit by drivers who neglect to follow the law. Last year alone, THP reported a staggering 150 crashes that were caused by drivers not adhering to the Move Over law. Unfortunately, two of those crashes resulted in fatalities and 11 resulted in serious injuries. This highlights the importance of drivers being aware of the law and taking necessary precautions to ensure the safety of those who are working on the roads.

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“It’s a painful reminder,” Alicia expressed. “My husband, Christy Dedman, and countless others lost their lives. We’ve been fighting to strengthen and enhance the Move Over law, but it seems like our efforts are in vain. It’s disheartening to think that their deaths were for nothing.”

In July 2022, while responding to a routine truck fire call on I-40 in Hickman County, Tennessee City volunteer firefighter Ted Presgraves was hit by a man driving a rental U-Haul truck. Ted vividly remembers that day.

Presgraves recalls the moment vividly, describing it as a sudden blow that left him numb. As he lay on the ground, watching the blood flow from his wound, he thought to himself that he wouldn’t make it and that his life would end right then and there.

Presgraves remembers the moment when first responders quickly applied a tourniquet to his leg, which was barely attached to his body. He was then airlifted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where doctors were uncertain about saving his leg. Fortunately, after several surgeries, insertion of a metal rod, and multiple screws, his leg was successfully saved.

During a press conference held on Monday, several state agencies, including THP, TDOT, and the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, addressed the issue of drivers neglecting to move over, which has become a widespread problem throughout the state.

According to Jeff Long, the Commissioner of the TN Dept. of Safety and Homeland Security, the increasing number of help truck drivers, operators, and first responders getting hit and killed on the side of the highway is a significant concern. Long emphasizes the need for the motoring public to slow down and move over to prevent such tragedies from occurring. He states, “To put it really simply, it’s got to stop.”

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Tennessee’s Move Over law enforcement will receive a boost through a $172,000 federal grant, as announced by state agencies. This grant will aid troopers in enforcing violations of the law more effectively.

Colonel Matt Perry from the THP stated that additional troopers have been deployed on the highways in order to ensure the safety of roadside workers, including HELP truck drivers and first responders.

TDOT celebrated the 25th anniversary of its HELP truck program, which includes a fleet of 113 trucks. The program’s drivers patrol busy highways, assist with traffic control, and respond to incidents on the side of the road. TDOT plans to expand the program to rural areas to extend its reach and impact.

According to Buddy Lewis, director of the TN Highway Safety Office, although fatality reports and numbers of critically injured and killed individuals on roadways are reported daily, the number of lives saved by the efforts of enforcement, THP, other law enforcement, and HELP truck drivers is not. He emphasizes that this program saves lives on a daily basis.

As of now, breaking the “Move Over” law can result in a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and a jail term of up to 30 days.

Alicia and Presgraves are advocating for stricter penalties for drivers who fail to comply with Tennessee’s “Move Over” law. They acknowledge the efforts made by law enforcement personnel to enforce the law, but believe that drivers who do not move over should be held more accountable. Their goal is to ensure that the law is taken seriously and that everyone on the road remains safe.

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