Southbound lanes of interstate 75 in Hillsborough County, Fla., were closed early yesterday morning after two Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) deputies conducting a traffic stop on one motorcyclist were bowled over like pins. A separate motorcyclist encroached upon the outer emergency lane and struck both deputies.
Captain Steve Launikitis and Master Deputy Chris Davis were involved in talking to a motorcyclist stopped by Captain Launikitis regarding a traffic infraction. The traffic stop activity, in the southbound lanes of I-75 just north of S.R. 674 at the Sun City Center/Ruskin exit ramp, was upon the outer shoulder, leaving all three travel lanes flowing.
Both Captain Launikitis and Master Deputy Davis were standing outside their respective patrol cruisers, one fully-marked, each with overhead and/or interior emergency lights flashing.
This particular I-75 exit (240) happens to be well-traversed by Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies; it is the one egress used by HCSO District IV office deputies to report to/from duty, roll call, equipment procurement, vehicle maintenance, and any requisite duty purposes of HCSO deputies.
As per Florida state law, motorists are required to vacate the lane nearest any emergency vehicles when it appears official public safety duty is active. The "Move Over Act" delineates two trucks as a public safety vehicle which the motoring public must also recognize and move over one lane, when possible.
Per the "Move Over Law" motorists are required to move one lane over AND slow their vehicle to 20 MPH below the posted speed limit. A speed limit zone posted as 70 MPH should be traversed at 50 MPH when emergency vehicles are present.
The "Move Over Law" was legislated over a decade ago stemming from the mounting number of police, firefighter, paramedics, and tow truck drivers operating along Florida's highways and byways who were struck and killed by motorists.
Yesterday morning's incident is testament of how imperative such laws are as it relates to safeguarding our public safety officials who risk their lives to protect the lives of others.
The motorcyclist who was stopped for a traffic infraction, Bryan Martinez, was astutely pushed out of the way when both Captain Launikitis and Master Deputy Davis saw another motorcyclist heading directly where they stood on the shoulder of I-75.
Martinez's life was saved by the heroic actions of Captain Launikitis and Master Deputy Davis. Martinez suffered no injury. However, both deputies were unable to dodge the rocketing motorcycle.
Bryan Edmonston, the motorcyclist who veered from the travel lanes and struck both deputies, was also transported to Tampa General Hospital and reportedly sustained no life-threatening injuries. He was not wearing a helmet.
After both deputies arrived at Tampa General Hospital via Aeromed helicopter, it was determined broken bones were the worst of the brush with death. Captain Launikitis and Master Deputy Davis will be away from duty for several weeks so as to heal broken bones and multiple lacerations.
Instances such as this whereby law enforcement officers confront the reality of being a fatality, upon every encounter out of patrol cruisers, is an abomination of obedience to traffic laws...and emphasizes the importance of concentrated driving behavior.
Every state in America has enacted laws similar to Florida's "Move Over Act" and, in addition to its initial and recurring campaign to educate the motoring public, Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) continues to broadcast year-round announcements.
Along each and every interstate within Florida's borders are overhead LED signs advertising the "Move Over Act" and common sense is a predicate driving factor.
As per statute, if a motorist does not have a lane in which to relocate away from public safety vehicles, slowing down safely and considerably is always an option to exercise, no matter the circumstances.
Upon opting for selfless dedication, public safety officials jutted hands in the air and swore an oath to protect the public; perhaps the public can return the honor, dignity and nobility by providing a relegated zone in which these uniformed individuals can safely perform their duties.
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