A radio host has come under fire for criticizing a proposed change to a law that now not only fines motorists, but would put points on their licenses.
NJ101.5 midday host Judi Franco penned an opinion piece published Tuesday, “NJ’s Move-Over Law: Dead Cops Make Bad Laws.” In it, she criticized the state’s existing “move-over” law – a law the requires motorists to move over when law enforcement, emergency services or tow trucks are on the shoulder – as unnecessary. The proposed change to the law, which would not only keep the $100-$500 fine, would penalize violators with two points on their licenses.
Those changes are being co-sponsored by State Sens. Vin Gopal and Jim Holzapfel and assembly members Eric Houghtaling, Joann Downey and Gregory McGuckin.
The law was passed in 2009. More than a year later, State Trooper Marc Castellano was struck on Route 195 in Howell while walking on the shoulder, in search of an alleged armed occupant of an abandoned vehicle, connected to an ongoing investigation. He died at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune several hours later.
His mother, Donna Setaro, has been an advocate and educator of the move-over law since.
Franco incorrectly wrote that the law was passed in reaction to Castellano’s death.
“As the daughter of a retired State Trooper, I am disgusted and insulted by Judi Franco’s complete lack of respect for the memory of Marc Castellano and apparent lack of care for the safety of New Jersey’s police officers,” Downey said in a Dec. 6 statement. “This man lost his life while serving and protecting the people of New Jersey. Do our officers not deserve the protection and sense of security the Move Over Law provides? How anyone can argue that this law is unnecessary – when its violation has already resulted in the loss of numerous innocent lives – is unfathomable. Ms. Franco is unconscionable and her argument is rooted in sheer ignorance. She should be ashamed.”
It’s hard to quantify how many emergency workers’ lives have been saved because of the law, but despite it, four Manchester Township officers were hit while conducting a stop on Route 37 on Aug. 9 this year, and a Brick Township officer hit while inside his car on Route 70 on Sept. 9. That driver was impaired. Both drivers failed to move over. A State Trooper was struck on the south end of the New Jersey Turnpike and a Palisades Interstate Parkway Officer struck later this year.
The State Troopers Fraternal Association issued a three-page statement Dec. 5 in response to Franco’s opinion piece, calling it a “poorly written ‘opinion’ piece” simply meant to “stir the pot for ratings.” They demanded an apology from Franco’s employer, NJ101.5.
“There are two sad realities however. First, despite [Satero’s] great efforts, first responders are still being struck by vehicles on our roadways, and second, and the driving force behind this piece, is that a law enforcement (member) such as myself should never have to answer our phones to hear the mother of a fallen trooper in tears because a viral radio personality such as Judi Franco has chosen to mock and downplay the importance of the Move Over Law by calling it, and I quote, “bad law” and “a silly law,”” STFA President Wayne Blanchard said.
NJ101.5 issued the following statement.
“Our talk hosts at New Jersey 101.5 are chosen because they offer strong opinions and viewpoints. We understand not everyone will agree with them – they frequently disagree with one another – and that’s why we encourage our listeners to reach out on-air and online. Our goal isn’t to tell anyone what to think, but to give our hosts the space to start conversations.
“We’ve always enjoyed a productive relationship with New Jersey law enforcement, including the New Jersey State Police’s participation in our past and upcoming Town Hall events on online safety, through the New Jersey State PBA’s participation in our Feel Better Bears project to distribute teddy bears to children going through difficult times, and through our participation alongside law enforcement in the annual Polar Plunge in Seaside Heights. Additionally, we celebrate law enforcement efforts through our weekly #BlueFriday feature on the Bill Spadea Show.
“We appreciate the feedback from the State Troopers Fraternal Association, even the criticism, and as with any feedback, take it under advisement.”