An officer approaches a car on the side of a highway and narrowly avoids getting hit. Another officer in a different traffic stop wasn’t as lucky. He survived, but was hit by a motorist.
Donna Setaro says videos that demonstrate these things are shown to high school students to teach them the importance of the move over law.
“You don’t realize how dangerous it is for them to just get out of the car,” Setaro said.
The law is simple, if you see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road you have to switch lanes, if possible. If not, you have to slow down.
“And it is a law in every state in the United States, except for Washington D.C.,” said Setaro.
She approached State Police to put the program together because her son, Marc Castellano, was killed in the line of duty in 2010.
“He was on the side of the road and it was a young man who failed to slow down and move over and failed to get off the exit, ended up in the shoulder, and ended up hitting Marc,” Setaro said. “We knew something was very serious when we pulled into Jersey Shore Medical Center and realized that the whole parking lot was filled with officer’s cars.”
Marc died just a few weeks before his 30th birthday. He was married to his high school sweetheart, and a father of two.
Fifty-two of the 1,300 plus law enforcement deaths since 2010, when Marc was killed, are as a result of officers being struck and killed on our nation’s highways,” said Wayne Blanchard, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey.
Assembly members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey are sponsoring a bill that’s in committee to strengthen the move over law in the state.
Right now, the fine is between $100 and $500. They want it changed so a driver will receive points on their license if they violate the law.
“We find if you put these points on we’re hoping that will be more of a deterrent,” Downey said.
“When they mail out for your new license, if they include that information in there about the move over law, two points to your license, like Joann said, these points add up to your insurance, surcharges and things like that. It can be really, really expensive, but we really just want everybody to be safe on the side of the road,” Houghtaling said.
Blanchard worked with Setaro’s son.
“Marc was probably one of the most dedicated troopers that I worked with,” Blanchard said.
And his mom is continuing that legacy. She has already reached her goal of teaching over 100,000 people about the move over law.
“I’m hoping that he realizes and knows that I’m trying to save the lives of the people that he worked with and loved so much,” Setaro said.
Troopers call her the guardian angel of first responders in New Jersey.