Miami Herald: Police agencies team up to reinforce `Move Over’ law

May 21, 2010

The Miami Herald published the following on May 21, 2010:


Just last year, Sweetwater Sgt. Jorge Delara worked alongside Florida Highway Patrol trooper Patrick Ambroise.

“He was sitting right there,” Delara said Thursday, pointing at an empty chair inside a mobile mini-station. “We were processing a DUI. He’ll never get to do that again,” he added softly, shaking his head.

Ambroise died Saturday when a Lexus plowed into the back of his cruiser on Florida’s Turnpike. The vehicle burst into flames with the officer trapped inside. In his honor, 80 officers from 21 departments hit the streets Thursday to nab law-breaking motorists.

From 8:30 a.m. to noon, cops working out of makeshift command posts in Medley and Virginia Gardens fanned out in cruisers and on motorbikes along sections of Okeechobee Road and Northwest 36th Street, respectively.

Medley police already had planned the event as a “Click it or Ticket” mega-patrol targeting unbelted car occupants. After Ambroise’s death, they incorporated enforcement of Florida’s “Move Over” Law, enacted in 2002 to prevent tragedies such as what happened to Ambroise.

Medley police Lt. Joseph Olmedo, who helped organize Thursday’s operation, said the officers issued 646 traffic citations, including 236 to drivers who ignored the “move over” law. Under the measure, drivers must shift over a lane if they see an emergency vehicle on the roadside, giving it a wide berth. Those who cannot move over must slow down to 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit.

According the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, more than 150 officers have died since 1999 after being hit by motorists along U.S. roads.

Since 2000, 47 states have put “move over” laws on their books.

“The vast majority of people stopped for move-over [violations] say they had no idea about the law,” South Miami police officer Ralph Baumer said, just after he and Medley police Officer Maria Perez arrested a man for using fake insurance documents.

Employees from several insurance companies helped the operation.

The group also handed out 169 citations to folks not wearing seatbelts and distributed 765 pamphlets on the “move over” and seatbelt laws. They also made seven arrests.

“We got an arrest at Northwest 87th Avenue and 35th Lane, the BankAtlantic,” came a scratchy voice over the mini-station’s radio. “Outstanding warrant. Female.”

Delara grabbed the handset. “Got it,” he said, turning to Virginia Gardens police Officer James Scrima. “We need a wrecker at 87th Avenue and 35th Lane.”

Delara said the event reflected the close working relationships among officers from the county’s many departments. “We work together. We help each other. When something like that happens,” he said of Ambroise’s death, “it hurts all of us.”

Jonathan Garcia, 19, driver of the Lexus that killed Ambroise, was not driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, police have said. No charges have been filed.

Ambroise’s funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday at the Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Dr.