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Utility workers added to states move over law

ATLANTA — Utility linemen are about to join the ranks of law enforcement, public safety and transportation personnel who will be better protected from motorists while in the line of duty.

House Bill 767, or the “Move Over for Linemen” legislation, requires any motorist approaching utility linemen at an active work site, as indicated by traffic cones or flashing beacons, to change lanes or reduce their speed to a “reasonable and proper speed” below the posted speed limit.

Gov. Nathan Deal recently signed the bill, which was sponsored in the Senate by District 51 state Sen. Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega Republican whose district includes some of north Forsyth.

It affords linemen the same protections as other crews who work along roadsides. Every local state legislator supported the measure, which takes effect July 1.

“This new law will protect our employees, [who] are frequently working in heavy traffic areas throughout our service area,” said Chet Blackstock, vice president of operations at Sawnee EMC.

The new law applies to all types of utility workers, including electric, natural gas, cable and telecommunications workers, right-of-way crews and utility contractors.

Any motorist who does not change lanes or drop their speed to avoid an approaching utility worker may be fined up to $250 per incident.

Cumming-based Sawnee was one of more than 40 electric membership corporations in Georgia that brought the issue of increasing line worker safety before the 2016 Georgia General Assembly.

According to the Georgia Department of Highway Safety, emergency vehicles parked along a highway are vulnerable to crashes, even with emergency lights flashing.

The original law protecting emergency crews passed in 2003 and covered police officers, paramedics, firefighters, wrecker operators and highway maintenance workers by creating an open buffer lane between passing highway traffic and authorized roadside emergency vehicles that signaled their presence.