Steer clear advocates greet I-81 travelers going through Greencastle

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Bob Clare, left, and Don Heckman manned the Troop 99 Venture Crew table during the PennDOT Road Safety Event. The scouts offered fruit, cookies and coffee to tourists, accepting donations. After school Megan and Brandon Clare, the mutual grandchildren of the two men, were coming to help with clean-up.

Move over. Slow down. Know the law.

Various agencies greeting travelers Thursday at the I-81 Welcome Center near State Line all promoted the same message.

In particular, they were focusing on the Pennsylvania Steer Clear law.

“We want people to steer clear when they come upon police, fire trucks, PennDOT vehicles, tow trucks and others on the side of the road,” said Fritzi Screffler, spokesman for PennDOT. “There are too many near misses. The responders are busy with their tasks, and the drivers are multitasking too.”

PennDOT and safety partners set up booths with literature and videos on safety concerns that affected all motorists. Linda Hoover, Tourist Information Supervisor at the Welcome Center, proposed the idea, and it was quickly adopted.

“We get upwards of 1,200 people through here in a day,” Hoover said. “I wanted travelers to realize the importance of Pennsylvania’s laws.”

She chose a day in April since it was the busiest month. The uptick in visits was partially due to snowbirds returning home.

As people stopped in to use the restrooms, get a map or stretch their legs, they browsed the tables and spoke to the representatives.

Bob Cumberland and Robert Timko, Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association, shared information that was valid in all states. They wanted personnel responding to emergencies to be protected from traffic whizzing by.

“It also affects people who break down on the highways,” said Timko.

They urged drivers to move over if they saw activity on the shoulder, and to carefully follow any shifted zones so that traffic could keep flowing without causing another accident.

Pennsylvania State Police officers answered questions on driving safely and other issues. Trooper Angel Garcia gave a Kentucky man two gun locks, designed to secure firearms while transporting between vehicle and home.

“He had two unsecured rifles in the closet at his house,” Garcia said. “I promoted two good causes at the same time.”

Motorcycle safety also drew interest from visitors. PennDOT was one of a few states to offer free safety courses.

One organization dealt with people who were injured in vehicle accidents that had not been prevented. Rachel Bryson and David Maceiko represented the American Trauma Society, Pennsylvania Division.

“We are here to educate about trauma prevention and highway and traffic safety,” said Bryson, Director of Communications. “Distracted driving is a huge issue with all age groups.”

Cell phones, the radio, eating, drinking and reading maps were all causes of drivers not paying attention to the road.

“And grooming,” said Maceiko, Assistant Coordinator for South Central Pennsylvania Highway Safety. “Women putting makeup on. I’ve seen men shaving.”

They were also promoting the Perfect Passenger. That person should answer the phone, do the texting, change the radio station, give directions, be alert, maybe even make the children in the backseat be quiet.

Hoover watched the comings and goings of the crowd.

“This is a success,” she decided.

If you see an accident or incident along the side of the road, the driver should:

• Move over at least one lane.

• If not possible, slow down.

• Failure to do so may result in a fine up to $250.

• A driver cited for a traffic violation in the zone faces double fines.

• If the violation results in injury to a worker, it could mean a 90-day license suspension.

Pennsylvania Steer Clear Law