More than a dozen Traffic Division officers with the Honolulu Police Department left the state Capitol disappointed Thursday after House and Senate negotiators failed to reach a compromise on the so-called "Move Over" bill.
The measure was introduced at the start of the legislative session after two HPD officers were killed in a four-month span by drivers who slammed into the back of stationary patrol cars.
Eric Fontes, 45, died when a motorist struck a patrol car on Farrington Highway last September as the officer stood nearby. Officer Garrett Davis, 28, was killed in January when a driver on the H-1 Freeway struck his patrol car as he came to the aid of the driver of a stalled vehicle.
Under the parameters of the bill, drivers would be forced to slow down and move one or two lanes over when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle, which includes ambulances and tow trucks.
"We just want to get this bill passed in some form for the safety of all first responders," said Capt. Darren Izumo, of HPD's Traffic Division.
However, two issues remain unresolved after House and Senate lawmakers met for the first time in conference committee.
The House version of the bill calls for drivers to slow down 20 mph less than the posted speed limit when the speed limit is 25 mph or more.
Senate lawmakers believe that could create a traffic nightmare on the H-1 Freeway, Oahu's main thoroughfare.
"We will create a traffic jam from here to Ewa, and everybody and everything will be delayed," said Senate conference committee chairman Sen. Kalani English. "We don't want to do that."
The Senate prefers a "prudent person test" that would require drivers to slow down to a safe speed when passing a stationary emergency vehicle.
"That basically says if an officer says to please slow down with his hands (and) makes eye contact, then you would do that," said English.
House and Senate negotiators are also at odds over the punishment drivers who ignore the "Move Over" law should receive. The House wants to make it a petty misdemeanor, while the Senate prefers making it a violation of the traffic code.
"For most people, if you get cited under this provision as a petty misdemeanor, it will affect your insurance ratings," said English. "In fact, your insurance ratings will go sky-high, so we don't want that."
Curiously enough, Hawaii state law already provides penalties for drivers who fail to use caution when approaching an emergency vehicle, or drivers who fail to move for emergency vehicles that approach from behind.
"We have it in the negligent homicide sections, the criminal code and etcetera," said English. "What we're doing in this bill, we're simply restating the law in one section."
House and Senate negotiators will try again to reach a compromise on the "Move Over" bill at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.