Eye on KELOLAND: Roadside Risks

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It can be one of the most dangerous spots on a highway, especially for first responders. We are talking about the shoulder of the road.

Take a look at this video and watch closely.

A driver in Lincoln County plows into the back of a Highway Patrol vehicle that had pulled over to the side of the road responding to an injury crash.

The video was shot on State Highway Patrol Trooper Kellyn Neth’s dash cam, who had just arrived on the scene to assist.

“It’s a shock, it was pretty loud and car parts flying all over the place,” Trooper Neth said.

He says his first response was to make sure everyone was okay. Incredibly no one was seriously hurt.

Trooper Neth had his own close encounter with death when he pulled someone over on I-29 near 12th street for a routine traffic stop when he too was hit.

“I was rear ended, I didn’t see it coming at all, I was on the shoulder of the road with my lights on the vehicle was parked in front of me and I was struck at 65 mph with a vehicle that was coming south bound,” Trooper Neth said.

There was another Highway Patrol car hit on I-29 near Madison Street.

In that case, a driver failed to slow down on slick roads. The trooper was severely hurt and out of work for an extended period of time.

A new AAA survey of first responders including police, fire and tow truck drivers, sheds an alarming light on dangerous driving behaviors that have resulted in hundreds of deaths on the roadside.

More than 90% of first responders polled said they have had at least one near miss and a lot of them say it happens ‘routinely.’

Last year, 47-year-old tow truck driver Dale Jones of Watertown was trying to help a young man, who had slid his car into the ditch along the Interstate, but was hit by another car that had lost control.

Dozens of tow truck drivers attended his funeral with a long procession of wreckers.

“We’ve all had close calls, anyone who’s been in a wrecker, you constantly keep your head on a swivel,” Wiik said.

John Wiik, who spoke to KELOLAND News via zoom, is a tow truck driver from Big Stone City, but he’s also a state legislator.

Wiik was the primary sponsor of the ‘Move Over Law’ in South Dakota back in 2019 Legislative session.

It increased the penalties for failing to move over to a $270 fine.

The bill also allows first responders to use blue lights, along with their amber lights.

“There’s a lot of research that shows blue is more visible especially in inclement weather here; fog or snow that kind of stuff,” Wiik said.

“The drivers I have pulled over for failing to move over in Sioux Falls often tell me they weren’t aware of the law or they weren’t able to move over,” Neth said.

Only a white line separates first responders from a senseless tragedy and that’s why they’re making a passionate plea for drivers to learn the law, slow down, and move over.

“I picked up a car along I-29 earlier and I believe it was 48 cars that had to move over while I was working along side of the road the other day, 48 cars came by and all 48 moved over and gave me room, it gave me a little sense of pride while I was out there, maybe we can actually make a difference once in awhile out in Pierre,” Wiik said.

“If you’re driving on the Interstate or on the road and you see yellow lights in front of you, those lights are there for caution, it’s to warn other drivers that there’s something going on in front of them that could affect how traffic is flowing,” Neth said.

And hoping to avoid other crashes in the future.

It becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor if a driver fails to move over and causes a crash with an emergency vehicle, meaning they could be fined and spend time in jail.

To learn more about the law, click here.


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