Unsafe driving can cost #036;10,000

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 12, 2002

More vehicles are on the highways today than ever before and with the increase in traffic comes an increase in fatalities. One type of highway death can now cost a driver a $10,000 fine. In fact, in Virginia, &uot;Scott’s Law&uot; was passed with no opposition to House Bill 1261, the legislation imposing stiffer penalties for causing a traffic death.

Suffolk’s Deputy Fire Chief S.W. &uot;Sam&uot; Cowan recently presided over a meeting of &uot;Concerned Citizens Advocating Traffic Safety Inc., and at the event he and other CCATS learned about the law.

As president of CCATS, Cowan introduced Lieutenant Andy Engemann, a firefighter who provided the information about the new law.

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According to Engemann, Scott’s Law was developed following the highway death of a Chicago firefighter Scott Gillen was killed by a drunk driver when he was struck by the oncoming vehicle.

&uot;Scott’s Law was passed in Virginia but few people actually know about the law,&uot; said Cowan. &uot;The bill was initiated to raise the penalties for drivers who fail to yield to emergencies or who cause accidents or injuries to personnel at the scene of an emergency response.&uot;

He said the public must be aware that they have to slow down when they see emergency response teams at the scene of a wreck.

&uot;We all know that some people will not slow down and with the passage of this law, we hope they realize they must slow down whenever they near emergency personnel,&uot; said Cowan. &uot;This is just sensible driving for anyone, and we hope that the passage of the law will cause people to think before speeding along a stretch of highway where there is an accident.&uot;

This law not only covers the emergency rescue personnel, but also firefighters, police officers, tow truck drivers, and motor assistance vehicle drivers.

According to Scott’s Law, anyone who fails to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle with flashing, blinking or alternating emergency lights is in violation. If this resulted in injury to someone, the court may also suspend the driver’s license for up to a year. If striking a person working accident results in death, the driver is not only liable for the $10,000 fine, but also the driver’s license will be revoked for two years.

CCATS is an organization, based in Virginia Beach, which works with local police, fire, emergency personnel and other agencies to improve highway traffic safety in Virginia.

Cowan added that they work with many local business, DMV, the American Automobile Association, Hoffman Beverages, to get safety information out to the public.

&uot;We focus on anything dealing with the public’s safety,&uot; he said. &uot;We also do a lot of promotions around Christmas time, warning people not to drink and drive, and we do things like sponsor bicycle safety courses and the proper installation of child safety seats.&uot;

In fact, Cowan noted, this year alone CCATS examined child safety seats across Hampton Roads, finding that many were dysfunctional and many were improperly installed.

Look for the child safety seat inspection trailer at Oakland Christian Church on Nov. 16, and Tucker Swamp Baptist on Nov. 17. Call 539-8787on how to get the trailer to your civic group or church.