Ten years ago, Tim Hayes stepped out of his Medic ambulance on Interstate 77 near Davidson during a snowstorm to see if he could help a motorist involved in a crash.
Moments later, he joined the still-growing list of law enforcement and emergency personnel who have been struck by other motorists while doing their jobs on roadsides.
A tractor-trailer slammed into the ambulance and two SUVs, pushing all four vehicles into Hayes on the side of the road.
Now retired from Medic, Hayes, 42, was reunited Wednesday on the observance of North Carolina Move Over Day with several of those who helped him on that snowy January 2003 day. Despite a law passed in 2001 that requires drivers to move over at least one lane while approaching flashing lights, he said injuries and deaths are still happening.
Just a few weeks ago, I met a woman who didnt even know about the Move Over Law, said Hayes, who lives in Kannapolis and travels the country, talking to groups about the law.
Theres still a need for education on this.
As part of the effort to educate the public, the N.C. Department of Transportation set up digital billboards Wednesday at three locations on I-77 and I-85 with the message, Move Over for Emergency Vehicles Its the Law.
The Move Over Law has helped, said Heath Holland, a control room supervisor for the N.C. DOTs regional incident management program in Charlotte.
Hayes said he can still see the incident happening.
My partner yelled that our truck was being hit, he said Wednesday. I was able to turn around and brace myself. That might have saved my life.
Fitted with prosthetic legs, Hayes said he started walking after about three months, but he needed additional medical treatment. It was late in 2004 before he was able to discard his crutches and wheelchair.
Now I try my best to educate the public, he said.
Federal statistics show more than 140 law enforcement officers across the U.S. have been killed in the past decade by passing motorists.
All 50 states now have Move Over laws, and the N.C. Highway Patrol says it issued more than 2,500 tickets for violations of the law in the past two years. Violating the law carries a $500 fine, and if an emergency responder is killed or seriously injured, the driver can face felony charges.