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Washington State Troopers Weary Of Being Hit By Side Of The Road

The Washington State Patrol is reminding drivers to move over -- or at least slow down -- when approaching an emergency vehicle that’s stopped with its lights flashing. The Patrol will begin a three-day crackdown Tuesday on drivers who don’t give troopers some space.

About 30 times per year, a Washington State Patrol trooper has someone pulled over or is helping a motorist and another driver smashes into them.

The Patrol’s Sgt. Paul Cagle said between 2007 and last year, more than 200 State Patrol vehicles were struck by the side of the road. Amazingly, no troopers were killed but three were injured along with several civilians.

Cagle said he’s never been hit. But he has had some close calls.

“I’ve nearly had my door taken off,” Cagle said. “Sometimes I feel like I would have to sprint to my car when there was an opening.”

Washington law requires drivers approaching an emergency zone to move over one lane or, if that’s not a safe option, slow down. The law also applies to tow trucks and other vehicles providing roadside assistance.

Washington, Oregon and Idaho all have some version of this law.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."