Trooper’s death shines spotlight on Colorado’s ‘move over’ law

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- Colorado State Patrol trooper Cody Donahue will be buried Friday, one week after he was struck and killed by a semitruck along Interstate 25.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office said the driver who hit him was 41 year-old Noe Gamez-Ruiz. He has been charged with careless driving resulting in death and failure to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle.

That law is most commonly known as the "move over" law. All 50 states now have such a law; it has been on the books in Colorado since 2006. However, it hasn't persuaded drivers to do the right thing.

"I don't think it's made a difference at all," said Tim Martinez, a crew leader with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Martinez works on a crew that removes debris from highways, everything from tires and mattresses to boats and car parts.

Martinez has had four co-workers and friends killed on the job in his 25 years with CDOT. That includes close friend David Stekr, who was hit and killed in 1996.

"When I think of him, I still get choked up to this day, and it's been close to 20 years," he said.

Martinez has also had several close calls.

"I share with some people about a time where I thought I was going to be jumping off a bridge because a car came into our work zone," he said.

Since 2010, 6,255 drivers have been cited in Colorado for violating the state's "move over" law.

In 2014, a record 1,470 drivers were cited. This year, 1,031 drivers have been issued citations and even more drivers have received warnings. The fine is a minimum of $87.

The law requires drivers to move over a lane for law enforcement and first responders, as well as road construction workers. If a driver cannot change lanes, the law requires they slow down significantly.

"If they're not paying attention to the police out there, state patrol, what chance do we have?" said Steve Fenton, a CDOT worker.

Fenton speculates some of the battle might also be education. The National Safety Commission conducted a survey several years ago and found 71 percent of Americans weren't aware their state even had a "move over" law.