Local utility workers may be feeling a little bit safer following passage of a law that requires motorists to move over when they see linemen at work.
House Bill 767 was signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal after near unanimous support from both houses of the Georgia Legislature. In two votes in the Georgia House of Representatives and one in the Georgia Senate, only a single “nay” vote was recorded.
A group of Coweta-Fayette EMC employees met with Deal after her signed the bill into law.
There are 41 electric membership corporations in Georgia, and they worked together to bring “the issue of line worker safety before the 2016 Georgia General Assembly,” Amy Lott, communications coordinator with Coweta-Fayette EMC, said in a press release.
Lott noted EMC linemen now join “the ranks of law enforcement, public safety and transportation personnel” in being protected – by statute – as they go about their work.
HB 767 – known as the “Move Over for Linemen” law – “requires any motorist approaching utility linemen at an active work site – indicated by traffic cones or flashing yellow, amber, white or red lights – to change lanes or reduce speed to a reasonable and proper velocity below the posted limit,” Lott said.
A motorist who fails to change lanes or decrease speed may be fined up to $250 per incident. The new bill, effective July 1, applies to all types of utility workers, including electric, natural gas, cable and telecommunications personnel, as well as right-of-way crews and utility contractors.
During the legislative session, Georgia EMC led a coalition of utilities and businesses—including the state’s 41 EMCs, Georgia Power and various municipal systems—in support of HB 767, Lott said.
Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) sponsored HB 767. Co-sponsors were Gloria Frazier (D-Hephzibah), Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon), Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah), Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) and Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta).
“The new law and added protections are critical to safeguard workers,” Lott said. According to the Georgia Department of Highway Safety, emergency vehicles parked beside a highway are vulnerable to crashes, even with emergency lights flashing.
A 2003 law was created to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities to police officers, paramedics, firefighters, wrecker operators and highway maintenance workers by keeping an open buffer lane between passing highway traffic and authorized roadside emergency vehicles.