“Slow down and move over!” Elementary students at Timothy Dwight Elementary School in Fairfield, Connecticut, yelled as oncoming “drivers” passed by a wreck on the “highway.” Lunch tables were pushed to the side as volunteers drove cardboard cutout cars, emergency vehicles, a tow truck, and construction machines. As students drove their vehicles to the “wreck,” police officers and firefighters from Fairfield explained why and how they approached the scene. The founder of the nonprofit Flagman Inc., Cindy Iodice, dressed in a black pantsuit with her brown hair hanging over her shoulder, stood beside the first responders and spoke about the importance of the “Slow Down, Move Over” laws.
The policeman spoke about his job description once he approached the scene of the wreck. Two student volunteers followed him to the accident in the artificial police car. He parked at an angle to shield the disabled vehicles from oncoming traffic. As the officer did this, he explained to the assembly how parking diagonally in the back of the wreck can prevent further collisions with other vehicles. The firefighter followed the officer, demonstrating his job in roadside accidents to the eager students. Then the ambulance was brought out, and the children helped their peers to safety by picking them up and taking them away from the scene as an EMT explained his duties. Next, AAA Northeast’s Public Affairs Specialist Fran Mayko—dressed in a hard hat and safety vest—directed her volunteers with a tow truck to the scene, explained the process of cleaning up, and took the cardboard vehicles away.
Finally, construction worker David Ferraro set up a construction scene with cones as his students stood behind them with a cardboard pickup truck. The students who were assigned to be oncoming drivers were directed to drive around the scene while students shouted, “Slow down and move over!” Once the accident scene was cleared and traffic resumed, Iodice closed out the presentation, reiterating the mission of Flagman and emphasizing the importance of these laws.
“So, we’re talking to them about who works on the side of the road and how we can help them get home safely.” Cindy Iodice sat on a stone wall in front of the elementary school. Iodice became an advocate for the “Slow Down, Move Over” laws after her brother, Corey Iodice, a tow truck driver, was struck and killed on the Merritt Parkway in April 2020.
“It just devastated and shocked the industry because everybody who knew Corey knew that safety was his main priority.” To honor her brother’s life, Iodice started Flagman Inc., a nonprofit organization designed to bring awareness to these laws and raise money to provide their education programs in schools. Iodice’s goal is to clarify the message of the “Slow Down, Move Over” Laws. “We were like, is ‘slow down and move over’ the right terminology? Nobody knows it. Nobody understands it. Some people think ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ means if an ambulance is coming up with their sirens behind you, you slow down and move over.”
It’s that simple. There are two parts to the law. The driver should slow down and move over. Drivers can look into Title 14-283B in the DMV handbook for information regarding the “Move Over” laws. Iodice just wants drivers to use their brakes when approaching an accident.
Standing on the side of the road as cars zoom past at seventy-plus miles per hour is harrowing. “Your entire vehicle shakes when a person flies by you in the right lane,” said Connecticut DOT officer Evelyn Stander. “It doesn’t matter if they’re in a Honda or pickup truck. If they’re going fast, then your entire vehicle physically moves.” Stander noted that a lot of the accidents that occur are caused by distracted or impaired driving.
David Ferraro knows the dangers all too well. He works as a construction project engineer for Connecticut DOT and construction representative for Iodice’s assembly. He was a victim of a drunk driving accident in a work zone. The driver fell asleep behind the wheel and struck Ferraro and another pickup truck from behind. “The reality is, it’s a good thing that he hit the pickup truck and me the way he did. He would’ve hit a paving crew that was standing right there waiting to start the night shift.” Although Ferraro lives in constant back and neck pain, he still uses his voice to bring awareness to these laws. “We deserve to come home at the end of our work shift, and we lose too many emergency personnel and construction workers in this country every day from distracted driving, which is all preventable.”
Unfortunately, these laws are not observed. And it’s only getting worse through distracted driving. Flagman reported that on average every 4.65 days a first responder is struck and killed on the job. According to AAA, between 2015 and 2018 nearly 1,700 people were killed outside their disabled vehicles. But Iodice’s advocacy in the memory of her brother can only do so much to slow down traffic.
Spreading awareness with legislation is another route to increase safety on roadways. During the trial of the man who struck her brother on the side of the road, Iodice connected with Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, who is heavily involved with the “Slow Down, Move Over” laws. At a press conference the morning of the assembly, both Iodice and Blumenthal spoke at the Fairfield Fire Department about his resolution and bringing awareness about these laws to the people of Connecticut.
“What we need to do is increase the penalties for violating the law to deter people and also enforce them more rigorously,” said Senator Blumenthal, dressed in a black suit and red tie, his brow furrowed. “That is one of my purposes in the Senate.” With both his and Iodice’s efforts, a jury convicted the man who killed Corey Iodice for vehicular manslaughter. Without that charge, the court case could’ve had an entirely different outcome. Currently, the penalties are up to $10,000 for killing someone or $250 for injuring someone on the side of the highway. Unfortunately, there is no jail time associated with either of these fines.
Before Iodice’s assemblies, students were given surveys to fill out in regards to these laws. In the beginning, about 60 percent of students have heard of the laws, and by the end, 97 percent could confidently identify what it is. “We are working with a whole bunch of people in the transportation sector, who want to create a safer driving culture. So, we believe it starts with the kids. And you know, the kids in kindergarten now are going to have Flagman for the next twelve years at these different stages, turning them into responsible drivers.”
With help from a US Senator, Iodice is undeterred when it comes to the observance of these laws. Along with first responders represented on her website, Flagman Inc. is a great advocate of tow and construction companies. To bring her foundation to a nationwide audience, Iodice is working on spreading her mission through public service announcements.
For now, the roadshow goes on as she continues to tour the schools of southern Connecticut, bringing awareness to a new generation of children and student drivers. The excitement and passion the children have after learning something new and being able to participate in making this change is palpable. “Slow Down, Move Over” echoed through the cafeteria as Iodice finished out with the third through fifth graders. Their teachers could barely grab their attention as the students bounced with excitement talking to some of the first responders and Iodice. As the children left, and the mumbles of “Slow Down, Move Over” faded away, Iodice was left with tears in her eyes, as she smiled up at the Flagman sign on the projection screen.
“The likelihood of this becoming a national movement is really great. And so we’ve had to do a lot of work to get to this moment to get here. We’re understaffed, we’re underfunded, and yet we’re doing it. And the response has been so terrific. That I think lightened the burden slightly, because we are doing something positive with such a horrible tragedy involving my entire family.”
Isabella Vassallo is a staff writer for Blue Muse Magazine.
Header photo courtesy of Isabella Vassallo.