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Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper signs ‘Move Over for Cody Act’ to honor fallen state troopers

Author: Ernest Luning - June 2, 2017 - Updated: February 5, 2018

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Flanked by State Patrol officers, members of State Trooper Cody Donahue's family and legislative sponsors, Gov. John Hickenlooper signs the "Move Over For Cody Act," a bill to increase penalties for failing to drive cautiously around roadside emergency and other vehicles, on Thursday, June 1, 2017, at the Patrol’s Castle Rock Troop Office. (Photo courtesy Colorado State Patrol)
Flanked by State Patrol officers, members of State Trooper Cody Donahue’s family and legislative sponsors, Gov. John Hickenlooper signs the “Move Over For Cody Act,” a bill to increase penalties for failing to drive cautiously around roadside emergency and other vehicles, on Thursday, June 1, 2017, at the Patrol’s Castle Rock Troop Office. (Photo courtesy Colorado State Patrol)

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday signed the “Move Over for Cody Act” legislation to raise penalties against drivers who don’t exercise caution when approaching and passing roadside emergency vehicles.

The bill is named for State Trooper Cody J. Donahue, who was struck and killed in November by the driver of a semi on Interstate 25 in Douglas County while the officer was parked on the shoulder investigating a traffic accident. It’s also a tribute to Trooper Jaimie L. Jursevics, who was killed by a drunk driver as she was trying to wave him to the shoulder a year earlier, also on I-25 in Douglas County.

“There is no excuse for careless driving,” said Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, one of the bill’s prime sponsors, in a statement. “The death of Trooper Donahue is a tragedy that should not have occurred. It is my hope that this law will add additional pressure to all Colorado drivers to move over for stopped vehicles.”

“Let’s make this a law,” said Hickenlooper, flanked by Donahue’s family, Colorado State Patrol officers and the bill’s sponsors at a signing ceremony at the Patrol’s Castle Rock Troop Office.

The law, which takes effect Sept. 1, increases the penalty for “failing to exhibit due care and caution” when passing a roadside emergency vehicle, tow truck or public utility vehicle from a traffic offense to a Class 1 misdemeanor if someone is injured and a Class 6 felony if someone is killed. The law requires drivers to move over one lane when possible or to slow down to a safe speed if weather or other conditions don’t permit giving a lane’s berth.

“Drivers, when you see law enforcement or emergency vehicles on the sides of roadways, please slow down, move over, and give them room to do their job and get home safely to their family,” said state Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Roxborough Park, another of the bill’s sponsors. “We have seen the tragic result of drivers who failed to pay attention, and I hope the stiffer penalties in this new law serve as a potent reminder to move over for our law enforcement and first responders.”

Under current law, the penalties for the offense can range from 10 days to 12 months in jail, but of the 417 convictions statewide over the past three years, only two resulted in any jail time, according to an analysis prepared by legislative staff. The bill also adds public service utility vehicles to those covered by the offense.

The bill, which was also sponsored by state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, passed both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously.

The State Patrol and law enforcement agencies throughout the state carried out monthly campaigns dubbed “Operation 1 Charlie 3” — the name honors Donahue and his family — earlier this year to educate motorists to move over for emergency vehicles.

“The loss of Troopers Donahue, Jursevics and every other first responder or civilian who lost their life in a routine roadside stop is tragic, and should not have happened,” Holbert said when the legislation was up for consideration in the Senate. “We can save lives with this bill. We can stop this senseless loss of life, and we can tell the families who have suffered with this incredible burden that their loved ones’ passing was not in vain.”

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.