The Texas Department of Public Safety announced Wednesday it would step up enforcement operations targeting drivers who ignore Texas' 2003 Move Over/Slow Down law.
The legislation requires motorists to either vacate the lane closet to a stopped emergency vehicle or tow truck or slow down 20 mph below the speed limit. If the speed limit is below 25 mph, drivers are required to slow to 5 mph. If drivers cannot safely or legally move over, they should choose the slow-down option.
The next of the increased enforcement operations will happen in Bell County on Feb. 1 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. DPS troopers will be joined by the following agencies in enforcing the law: the Bell County Sheriff's Office, the Temple Police Department, the Harker Heights Police Department and the Killeen Police Department.
“In light of the numerous vehicle crashes that occur in Texas and across the nation on a daily basis, and the unfortunate fact the many still violate the state law that has been in effect for nearly 15 years, we are increasing our enforcement and education efforts related to this law,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said in an email.
Killeen Police recently cracked down on the same law, catching nearly 150 violators in a three-hour time span.
Harker Heights resident Stephanie Bowles is a huge advocate of the Move Over/Slow Down law. Her husband, Scott Bowles, was a driver with Goode Towing and Recovery in Killeen. He was hit and killed by a passing minivan while he was picking up a broken down car on the side of the highway in 2017.
"The person who hit him gets to enjoy holidays and special occasions with her children and grandchildren, but if we want to celebrate anything we have to go to the cemetery," Stephanie recently told Channel 6 News Reporter Emani Payne.
Stephanie was also a tow truck driver for more than a decade, but with a young son at home, that has since changed.
"He's still not over it. He fears for losing his mom just like he lost his dad," Stephanie said.
Sam Carroll was close friends with Scott and his co-worker. In a recent interview, Carroll said it was hard going on without Scott, but he was hopeful more traffic enforcement would help prevent tragedies down the line.
"I was the wrecker driver that had to go out there to see some of the mess it was awful," Carroll said. "It's important for everyone to slow down, move over and save a life."
The case involving the driver who hit Scott Bowles was presented to the Bell County District Attorney's office in late 2017. But, the DA's office later requested more information and returned the case to the investigating officer at HHPD.
"The case will again be presented to the DA after the information requested is gathered and ready and submitted," Harker Heights Police Sgt. Steve Miller told Channel 6 on Monday.
Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza, through his office manager, also confirmed the case was back in the hands of HHPD.
Violations of the Move Over/Slow Down law can result in driver fines of up to $200. It increases to $500 if there is property damage. And, violators who cause bodily injury can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, face possible jail time and be fined up to $2,000.
Preliminary data from 2017, showed DPS issued more than 10,650 warnings and citations related to that law.