WEST, Texas — The "Slow Down, Move Over" law was enacted in 2003. The law requires drivers to pull over and reduce their speed when first responders, construction crews and tow trucks are on the side of the road.
But, if a new update is passed, when someone fails to abide by the law, the penalty would hit harder than it currently does now.
Emergency vehicles and first responders risk their lives every day.
"There's people involved and there's people working on the side of the road there that is inches away from disaster," Mayor of West, Tommy Muska, said.
West volunteer firefighter, Edward "Eddie" Hykel, was one of those responders risking his life.
On Tuesday, March 28, a semi-truck crashed into a vehicle fire he responded to on I-35, killing him.
"I was devastated and sad for Eddie and his family," Muska said. "That really after a while turned to anger."
Muska felt Hykel's death was avoidable if people followed the "Slow Down, Move Over" law.
A few weeks later, Muska found out Texas legislators are pushing to strengthen the Texas law through House Bill 898.
"Obviously we have a problem with people paying attention. That's the thing," Muska said. "It's a simple rule. It's a safe rule. It's a needed rule. But, some drivers may not do it because they're not aware or they are in a place where they can't do it."
According to AAA, 24 roadside workers and responders are killed doing their job on the side of the road every year, and sadly, Hykel was one of those people.
"25 people right there. I know DPS troopers, they are on that highway every day," Muska said. "They work on the highway and so they are in that traffic daily. It's not a matter of if, but when something like that may happen."
If the new bill were to pass, fines for breaking the law would increase from $200 to over $500. It can even reach up to $2,000 if a worker is injured. Courts could even suspend a person's drivers license.
But Muska feels $500 isn't enough.
"I'm kind of disappointed in that because you are not really going to have people be paying attention for $500," Muska said.
Muska hopes this new push brings awareness to drivers to slow down and move over. If the bill passes, the city of West hopes they can honor their fallen firefighter.
"I would love to have that bill named after Eddie Hykel, if that would be possible," Muska said. "He did not deserve to die on Interstate 35 when he was just trying to help someone else."
Muska knows getting the bill named after Hykel is a difficult task, but he hopes the city can continue to honor his legacy in this way.
If the bill passes, it is expected to take effect in September of this year.
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