(WBIR - Knoxville) Law enforcement throughout Tennessee are taking part in a massive social media push to inform people about the state's "move over" law.
Dozens of photos of people holding small signs with the hashtag #MoveOver have inundated the Tennessee Highway Patrol's Facebook page. Tennessee troopers say traffic fatalities involving law enforcement are up 33-percent compared to last year
The "move over" awareness campaign comes in the wake of a crash this weekend that killed a Nashville Metro Officer while he was working an accident on I-65. A tractor trailer struck and killed Officer Michael Petrina, 25, even though drivers had a two-mile notice.
"When I first came out of the academy, I was really passionate about he move over law," said trooper Joey Lindsay, now in his seventh year with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. "Now it is even more important to me because I have experienced the dangers myself. You have to move over and give room to emergency vehicles on the side of the road. If you cannot get over, you have to slow down considerably. That is the law."
In July 2013, a truck smashed into Lindsay's cruiser as the trooper helped with a vehicle that caught fire on Interstate 75. The crash broke Lindsay's neck.
"I never even saw it coming and I got struck by a tractor trailer while I was sitting roadside stationary. I was just sort of in disbelief when it happened. Fortunately, I wasn't outside the vehicle. If I was outside the vehicle, I wouldn't be doing this interview."
For Lindsay, the "move over" movement to increase awareness is a lot more than a hashtag.
"It is so frustrating because people are driving along, they can clearly get over, and they won't. Of course, I'll jump in my cruiser and run them down and cite them for it. Half the time they will say they are not aware there was such a law. Whether they are lying or not, who is to say? Ignorance of the law is not a defense. We are doing everything we can to educate people and inform them so we can be safe and the motoring public can be safe, too."
Lindsay considers himself fortunate to still be able to serve rather than dying in the line of duty. A colleague of Lindsay's is also fortunate to be alive, but is still unable to physically return to the job he loves.
"The Move Over law is very important. The message is so important because it changed my life in the blink of an eye," said Sgt. Lowell Russell with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. "It's sad that the officer got killed last weekend. We need to make people aware of the law for everybody's sake."
Russell barely survived a horrific crash in 2012 on Interstate 40 in Knoxville. A transfer truck smashed into Russell's cruiser parked on the side of I-40 as the trooper finished a traffic stop.
"I ended up getting knocked across three lanes of traffic and hit the concrete barrier, shattered my spine, and just changed my life forever," said Russell. "I've been through a lot the last couple of years and am so thankful for all of the prayers and support people gave me. I'm also really thankful people are getting the word out about the 'move over' law and sharing their pictures online. The move over law is a wonderful law that's very beneficial. It protects a lot of people, including police officers and any kind of first-responders."
The law says cars must move over a lane from the side of the road if possible to provide space for roadside law enforcement, utility workers, and other vehicles. If drivers are unable to move over a lane, Lindsay says the law states they must at least slow down considerably.
"It's not just for our safety. It's for drivers, too. You would have to live with striking somebody and killing them because you're in a hurry to get from point A to point B and you don't care about people's safety."
Violating the move-over law is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $100 to $500 and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days.