Florida Highway Patrol officers put their lives on the line each and everyday, protecting motorists on the highways, and the continuing failure of drivers to obey an 8-year-old law is making their jobs even more dangerous.
Troopers like Lt. Alex Annunziato, who spends much of his time on the clock dodging cars zipping past him, sometimes within inches, at deadly speeds.
"Because people don't move over, I can't even approach them on the driver side," said Annunziato, during a recent shift on a dark highway. "Whoa, that was close," he remarked after a car buzzed past.
All too often, the troopers' courageous efforts to patrol the Sunshine State highways can turn tragic. Last Saturday, Trooper Patrick Ambroise lost his life when a motorist plowed into the back of his patrol car.
"You think about, I've been parked on the side of the road countless times, and to think that in an instant you could lose your life, it's pretty sobering," Annunziato said.
In an effort to help protect police officers or other emergency vehicles on the roadways, Florida passed the Move Over Law in 2002. But eight years later many motorists still are not compliant.
"It's imperative that they move over and give a safe environment for law enforcement and emergency personnel to work in," said Annunziato.
The law requires motorists to "move over" one lane away from the emergency vehicle when lights are active, or drop their speed limit at least 20 mph below the posted speed limit. If motorists fail to do so they could be cited $164.00.
"If you see an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road, there's no reason why you have to drive [so close]," said Lt. Annunziato. "Literally, I can stand out and touch this car as it comes by me, because people are not paying attention."
Since 1999, more than 150 law enforcement officers have been killed after being struck by vehicles on America's highways. Currently 43 states have passed the "move over" law.
"This is what you're facing," said Annunziato. "You get out of the car, not only are you worried about the individual that you're stopping, now you're worried about what's going on behind you."