Oklahoma Senate Advances Bernardo-Mills Law (protecting emergency workers) to House

Oklahoma City – The State Senate on Wednesday (April 26) advanced House Bill 2684, sponsored in the upper chamber by Blake Stephens, R-Tahlequah.

The proposed law would establish fines for those who endanger emergency workers by failing to slow down or move over for stopped emergency vehicles.

The fine schedule is based on the structure of current state laws and penalties for exceeding the speed limit in a construction zone.

“Too often, our police officers, firefighters, paramedics, tow truck operators and other responders are put in harm’s way while responding to emergencies on Oklahoma’s roadways,” Stephens said.

“We want to ensure they can do their job safely, and by drivers slowing down and being more attentive, we hope to see fewer accidents, injuries and deaths of our selfless first responders.”

In this week’s vote, the proposal sailed to 38-9 approval on a bi-partisan vote.

The nine opponents were also a bi-partisan mix, with only one Senator not voting.

Under the provisions of H.B. 2684, if a person is found guilty of endangering an emergency worker, they can face fines of $1,000 for their first offense, $2,500 for their second offense, $5,000 if they hit and injure an emergency worker and $10,000 if an emergency worker is killed as a result of the endangerment.

State Representative Neil Hays, R-Checotah, is the House principal author of the bill, which cleared “second reading” in a late February 95-0 vote.

“We want to do everything in our power to protect our first responders, second responders and emergency workers working on our highways,” Hays said.

“The bill is named after John Mills, a tow truck driver from my House district who was killed working along Highway 69.

“I hope with the passage of this bill, it will encourage Oklahoma drivers to stay engaged and to pay better attention on our highways.

“I want to thank Senator Stephens for helping me run this bill to recognize John Mills’ legacy.”

The measure is pending in the House for final consideration.

Note: Working with a Senate press release, Pat McGuigan added a sketch of votes on H.B. 2684 in the two chambers of the State Legislature. McGuigan is the founder and publisher of CapitolBeatOK.com, an independent, non-partisan and locally-managed news service based in Oklahoma City