Trooper Ambrose and my Lesson in Road Safety

March 18, 2011

I was pulled over by a state trooper today but it wasn't for speeding (though I confess I was doing 65 on the Taconic, a 55-mph road). It was because in passing the trooper, who had pulled over another driver, I failed to change lanes, which at the time it was safe to do. The trooper caught up with me and explained I had violated the Ambrose-Searles Move Over Act, signed by Governor Patterson in summer of 2010. The law is named for two officers, state trooper Robert W. Ambrose and sheriff deputy Glenn M. Searles, both of whom were killed while on duty by cars that struck their vehicles while they were conducting investigations on the shoulder of a New York State highway. The new law (it went into effect in January 2011) requires motorists to slow down when they come upon an emergency vehicle on the shoulder. On parkways and highways we are required to move into the adjacent lane, when safely possible, to give cops and first responders room to operate safely.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, so I'll gladly pay the fine. But it occurs to me that it will do more good to help spread the word about this important law. These officers deserve our care and respect, and getting out of the way when it's safe to do so is a small thing to ask. 

There's a highway overpass on the Taconic that's named after Robert Ambrose. I didn't know until today who he was but I've often wondered. He was thirty-one years old and had been with the New York State Police for five years. The cop who pulled me over today spoke Trooper Ambrose's name with some reverence, and -- with our dog was softly whining in the way-back -- told us the story of what happened to him, and how he was killed by a careless driver. It seemed a lesson worth passing along.

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