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Move over for troopers; lives are on the line

Eight State Patrol troopers were hit while they were working the roads during a three-day period last week.

That's not just a statistic; eight lives were on the line.

So far this winter, a total of 31 troopers have been struck by other vehicles -- a big upswing to the 13 who were struck at this time last winter.

Again, the numbers don't deliver the full impact of what is at stake.

Maybe this will: Last week marked the 33rd anniversary of the death of Trooper Roger Williams. He was struck and killed by an out of control vehicle while helping a motorist on Interstate-94 near Alexandria. The anniversary of the death struck a chord with Kerry Hoeschen. After reading (the Echo Press') story about it, Hoeschen posted this comment online:

"I have a vivid memory of that day 33 years ago. I was sitting in the living room of our home when my dad came in the house. I sensed something wrong when he walked quickly to his bedroom. My mom asked him something and I will always remember his upset voice as his eyes showed he had been crying: 'Roger's been hit.' That was the first time I had seen my dad cry. You see, my dad was Roger Williams' partner that night. As I remember the story, they had been having dinner at Country Kitchen. My dad stayed back to pay while Roger went ahead. They drove separate cruisers. It was a snowy, blowing evening. Roger had stopped to help a semi driver and was walking up to the cab as a woman was driving toward them. Through the wind-blown snow, she caught a glimpse of a person -- Officer Williams. She slammed on the brakes and skidded into him. Officer Williams was killed instantly. My dad was the first on the scene. Officer WIlliams served the Alexandria area well. His tragic death touched many lives. Please, slow down and move over when you see emergency vehicles."

The fate of Williams and all other troopers out there -- not just numbers but living, breathing people with families of their own -- comes down to other drivers giving them the attention they deserve.

"It doesn't matter the road conditions; drivers need to pay attention," said Lieutenant Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol." A majority of troopers have been hit because people were not paying attention or driving too fast. Drivers need to be alert for flashing lights and move over to ensure we can do our jobs safely and the people we are helping are out of danger."

One more reason to be on the lookout for troopers: It's the law. Minnesota's "Ted Foss Move Over" law is more than 10 years old. Foss -- a 1985 graduate of the Alexandria Technical College's law enforcement program -- was killed by a passing vehicle as he was conducting a traffic stop on the shoulder of I-90 in Winona in 2000.

Here are the key components of the "Move Over" law:

• When traveling on a road with two or more lanes, you must keep over one full lane away from stopped emergency vehicles with flashing lights activated, including ambulance, fire, law enforcement, maintenance and construction vehicles.

• Reduce speed if you are unable to safely move over a lane.

• Failing to take these actions endangers personnel who provide critical and life-saving services.

All drivers should remember these precautions to avoid the tragedy that cut short the lives of Troopers Williams and Foss. -- Alexandria Echo Press