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Police stress 'Move Over' law to honor fallen officer

LAWRENCEVILLE - As Georgians take to the roads this holiday weekend, police plan to inject Gwinnett's busiest roadway with extra manpower to reiterate a law meant to save lives.

In doing so, they hope to honor a fallen comrade.

Beginning at 11 p.m. tonight, the Gwinnett police DUI task force and other personnel will hawk Interstate 85 for drivers who don't observe the so-called "Mover Over law."

Police will pull violators over and distribute pamphlets explaining the law. It requires motorists approaching a parked emergency vehicle on Georgia highways to either merge into the next lane or "slow down to a reasonable and proper speed for the road conditions," police said.

"The purpose of the operation is to reduce traffic accidents, traffic fatalities and to increase the public's awareness of the (law)," Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Illana Spellman said.

The law came in to effect in July 2003 as a means to curb fatalities on highways. It's applicable to any emergency vehicle parking on highway shoulders.

First-time offenders can face fines of up to $500.

Officers with "Operation Move Over," as it's being called, will also have their eyes pealed for potential DUI violators.

The purpose of the operation is two-fold, Spellman said. Aside from heightened safety, it's meant to honor Gwinnett police Officer Chris Magill, a member of the DUI task force struck and killed by a drunk driver in 1993 on I-85.

The Jimmy Carter Boulevard bridge that spans I-85 bears Magill's name.

Statistics formulated by the Governor's Office of Highway Safety speak to the law's importance.

More than a fourth of officers killed are struck by passing vehicles while waiting outside their patrol cars. Those crashes kill more officers than any other cause of death, according to the GOHS.

In general, about a third of all highway crashes are the result of another crash, the agency has found.

Maj. Howard Beers, commander of special operations, called Memorial Day weekend an opportune time to launch the initiative.

"This operation has special meaning to us," he said. "We want Gwinnett citizens and visitors to be safe while traveling on the roadways."