ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – It's a law many people break every day, and that 70 percent of Americans don't even know exists. In this Fox Files investigation, Rebecca Roberts looks into the "move over" laws in Missouri and Illinois, and why breaking this law can be deadly for first responders.
Steve Kainz moved as quickly as possible, as he exited his tow truck and secured a pickup truck. It's the part of his work day he dreads the most.
"You always have to be watching the flow of traffic. It just takes that split second to turn around, and for somebody not to see you," explains Kainz, who owns Trickey's Towing, Inc. in Wood River, Illinois.
We asked Kainz to show us what drivers experience, and it was shocking how many cars, tractor-trailers, even a school bus, failed to move over. Each of these drivers flagrantly broke the law.
Kainz says, "It scares me, but you just try to be careful and do the right thing, and try to go home every night."
Illinois State Police Trooper Kyle Deatherage will never come home again after a tractor-trailer hit him on I-55 in November 2012. He was standing next to a car during a traffic stop. The truck driver didn't slow down or change lanes.
"It was a nightmare knock at the door that I hope no one else has to live through," explains Sarah Deatherage, his young widow.
That driver's carelessness shattered a family. She adds, "It's been a nightmare. Our kids miss him dearly. We drive by a cemetery and my 3 year-old says, 'daddy.'"
Sarah Deatherage keeps a portrait of Kyle hung outside her kids' bedroom doors. They kiss the glass. She laments, "It just breaks my heart that Kyle won't get to do the daddy-daughter dances, and take Camden fishing for the first time, or all those things that dads dream of doing."
It's frustrating for her, because she knows if drivers could pay a little more attention, lives could be saved: "What if that was your family member, your husband, on the side of the road, you'd want to give them some space to change the tire, tow the truck, to do their job."
On both sides of the river, IDOT and MoDOT have worked to raise awareness through "move over" signage on highway billboards. But MoDOT Traffic Operations Engineer Brian Umfleet realizes more needs to be done: "I think its difficult educating the public. Although we think we do a great deal of outreach, it's obvious we haven't done enough."
The death toll speaks for itself. 131 MoDOT workers have been killed since 1932. More than 100 tow truck drivers were killed in the U.S. last year alone. Just last week, an ISP trooper was hit by a tractor-trailer. He survived.
Standing near the highway shoulder with this tow-truck driver, it's easy to see how dangerous their job is. As Kainz spoke with us, a yellow tractor-trailer whizzed right by him, failing to change lanes. He says, "There you go, semi tractor-trailer 70 miles per hour, that's it, that's all it takes."
The law is simple. If you see an emergency vehicle parked on the road or shoulder, always reduce your speed. When possible, change lanes, away from the vehicle.
Sarah Deatherage hopes drivers will pay more attention: "By slowing down, by moving over, changing lanes if you can, it truly would have saved my husband's life."
This April, on what would have been Kyle Deatherage's 35th birthday, family and friends are hosting a 5k and fun run in his honor. Proceeds benefit the Trooper Kyle Deatherage Memorial Fund, which provides financial assistance to families whose loved ones are killed or severely injured in the line of duty.
For more information, visit Trooper Kyle Deatherage Memorial NFP