New Campaign Enlists Help of Diners to Remind Motorists to "Move Over"
A new informational campaign will use diner place mats to remind drivers to move over or slow down when they see emergency responders stopped on the side of NJ roadways.
At 450 diners throughout New Jersey, the coloring pages distributed to children are now more than a distraction to keep them busy. They're also an effort to educate the public about a law that intends to protect first responders.
500,000 place mats describing the state's Move Over law are to be distributed to 450 diners throughout New Jersey through a partnership between the Middlesex County Law and Public Safety Committee and the Middlesex County Comprehensive Traffic Safety Program, the New Jersey Department of Health and Traffic Safety, the New Jersey State Police, and Pan Gregorian Enterprises.
The place mats advertise that drivers in New Jersey must, by law, move over one lane away from stopped emergency response vehicles. If they cannot move over, they must slow down to the posted speed limit. Failure to do so may result in the driver being ticketed.
The Move Over law was passed in 2009, but officials at a Tuesday press conference said the public isn't adequately aware of it.
According to information provided by Middlesex County, since 2007, there have been nearly 30,000 crashes in roadside work zones in New Jersey, resulting in nearly 10,000 injuries and 70 deaths.
One of the most known cases involving this law was the death of 29-year-old State Trooper Marc Castellano, who was struck by a car and killed in June 2010 while investigating an abandoned vehicle on a Howell highway.
Additionally, 3,200 citations have been written to drivers throughout New Jersey for failure to move over when in range of a stopped emergency response vehicle on the side of the road, according to the county.
At the site of the press conference outside of the Edison Diner, Castellano's picture was prominently displayed as the face of the campaign, and his mother, Donna Setaro, praised the work of the groups involved.
Setaro said that after her son's death, she found the Move Over law, and realized that not many people knew about it. It's become her mission to educate the state about the law, she said, and has performed more than 151 speaking engagements around the state.
"I'm not going to stop until I feel (the public) knows enough about this law," she said.
Middlesex County Freeholder H. James Polos, one of the key players in the initiative, said the place mats were chosen as the vehicle for information with families in mind.
During each trip to a diner, one of the first things Polos said he does is ask for coloring pages and crayons for his three young daughters, and then works with them to solve the puzzles and color the designs.
Parents will interact with the information when it's in the hands of their children, he said.
According to Wayne Blanchard, vice president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association, 140 first responders nationwide have been killed on roads in the last 10 years. Two North Carolina highway patrolmen were killed in the last two weeks, he said.
"Drive aware, be aware, when you see the lights, move over," he said.
Pan Gregorian Enterprises, a food service cooperative and philanthropic group that supports more than 800 diners in New Jersey, is reponsible for the distribution of the place mats.
The organization's president, George Siamboulis, said it is the first statewide public safety initiative that the group has become involved with.
"We support this program," he said.
State Police Acting Lt. Col. Edward Cetnar said the loss of Castellano was a "tragedy" not only for the state police, but for first responders all over New Jersey.
The driver who hit Castellano did not do so intentionally, but he was distracted, Cetnar said.
"Life can change in an instant," he said.
Cetnar said the goat of first responders is the same as citizen motorists - to get from one point to another, safely.
"Give them the opportunity to operate in a safe and efficient manner," he said. "Move over."
For more information on the Move Over law, visit www.moveoverlaw.com.