DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds has joined a public awareness campaign aimed at encouraging Iowa motorists to move over or slow down when approaching utility maintenance vehicles on roadways covered under an expanded state law that took effect July 1.
Reynolds and acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg joined representatives from rural electric cooperatives and major utilities Monday at a Statehouse event to sign a "move-over" pledge and to remind Iowans they could face fines or driver's license suspensions if they don't comply with the new requirement.
"Utility workers already have dangerous, high-risk jobs," Reynolds said at her weekly news conference. "Moving over or slowing down protects not only those workers, but also everyone else on the road. Safety is everyone's responsibility. It requires a commitment from every driver to watch out for each other and make sure everyone makes it home safely."
Iowa has had a "move over, slow down" law in effect since 2002 that requires drivers to move over or slow down for stopped emergency vehicles with flashing lights. This month, the law was expanded to include utility maintenance vehicles.
Gregg said all 50 states have adopted some form of the law, but Iowa is among a dozen that specifically protect utility maintenance vehicles as a way of "proactively cracking down on distracted driving."
State and utility officials attending Monday's event said they were not aware of any fatal accidents involving motorists and utility crews in Iowa, but Jim Dougherty, vice president for electric delivery at MidAmerican Energy, said more than 500 pieces of MidAmerican equipment have been struck by passing motorists so far this year.
"Five hundred in six months is a lot," Dougherty said. While utility work has inherent risks, he said, "this law is another mitigating tool to make sure that our employees can do their job safely."
Corey Birkel, an Alliant Energy electrical line worker based in Dubuque, talked about some close calls with passing motorists while fixing high-voltage lines along highways.
"There are more distracted drivers out there on the roads today," he said. "Even when we put our bright orange cones out and turn on our flashing lights, they don't always see us or change the way they drive."
Reynolds urged Iowans to sign a pledge at MoveOverIowa.com as a way to show their commitment.