Slow Down, Move Over bill inspired by Centerville firefighter heads to Governor’s desk

KBTX News 3 at Ten(Recurring)
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 9:05 PM CDT
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CENTERVILLE, Texas (KBTX) -It’s been one year since two Centerville volunteer firefighters were injured while responding to a minor crash on I-45 in Leon County.

Now a bill inspired partly by that tragedy is headed to the governor’s desk to become law.

According to data collected and shared by the Emergency Responder Safety Institute, 51 emergency responders including law enforcement officers, fire and EMS personnel, tow operators, and Department of Transportation work crews were killed last year after being struck by vehicles across the country. So far this year, 15 lives have been lost.

If passed and signed into law, House Bill 898 authored by District 64 Representative Lynn Stucky, known as the “Slow Down, Move Over” law would increase penalties for drivers that fail to change lanes or reduce their speed when first responders are working roadside.

House Bill 898 seeks to increase the penalties for violating the Move Over, Slow Down law as follows:

  • A Class C misdemeanor carrying a possible fine between $500-$1,250.
  • Subsequent violations would carry enhanced fines between $1,000-$2,000.
  • A violation causing serious bodily injury would be enhanced from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a possible punishment of a year in county jail and a fine up to $4,000.
  • Subsequent violations causing serious bodily injury would enhance the penalty to a state jail felony, which carries a possible punishment of up to 2 years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Additional enhancements under the Texas Penal Code may occur based on the circumstances of the violation.

What started out as a routine day at work last June changed the lives of Centerville volunteer firefighters Colton Adams and Clint Franklin when they were injured on I-45, responding to help a driver.

Colton Adams and Clint Franklin were hit by an 18-wheeler while on scene of an accident on I-45.
Colton Adams and Clint Franklin were hit by an 18-wheeler while on scene of an accident on I-45.(Centerville Volunteer Fire Department)

Adams shared that experience with District Representative Lynn Stucky and lawmakers this legislative session.

“Bless his heart. I mean really he’s an amazing person and for him to talk about how he was actually giving directions to the young lady whose car was disabled,” said Stucky. “It was a minor accident giving directions to her sister who was on the phone and the young lady had given the phone to him and said, ‘Could you tell my sister how to come pick me up?’ and the next thing he knows there’s a truck just running into them.”

Many families were hurt by the tragedy that nearly killed Adams. The driver of that car was killed and Adams lost his leg. The truck driver responsible didn’t face the same consequences.

Centerville firefighter Colton Adams.
Centerville firefighter Colton Adams.(KBTX)

It’s that tragedy and lack of consequences that made lawmakers want to strengthen the state’s slow-down move-over laws. That bill is now on Governor Abbott’s desk and would stiffen penalties for not yielding the right of way for first responders.

This bill is also being pushed by the Texas EMS Alliance, Southwest Tow Operators, and other first responder groups.

“The motivation was we need to put some teeth into a law that people take it seriously as to you move over, you slow down at least 20 mph or you move over when you see those lights,” said Stucky.

June 18 is the last day the governor can sign or veto bills.

Adams released the following statement about his journey over the last year and the pending legislation.

Since Adam’s incident on I-45 last year he has graduated from Sam Houston State University, been named First Responder of the Year by St. Joseph Health, and has returned to active duty.

While the majority of his classes during his final fall semester were online, Adams still had...
While the majority of his classes during his final fall semester were online, Adams still had one in-person course. He never missed one session. The university and facilities management team were able to make accommodations for him to get around campus easier.(Image courtesy: Sam Houston State University)