Though it is a daily activity for most adults, driving is extremely dangerous. Even in pristine conditions during broad daylight, distracted drivers often occupy the roads. But when weather takes a turn for the worst, safety concerns amplify.

When snow and ice hit New Mexico on January 2, roads turned deadly for one Good Samaritan during his efforts to stop and help others who had been involved in motor vehicle accidents. Pat Cisneros was hit and killed by a semi while he attended to a crash alongside I-40. But for the tow truck driver who tried to help, Mr. Cisneros’ memory lives on in a reminder about serving others safely.

What New Mexico laws say about driving past emergency vehicles

Like many other states, New Mexico’s Move Over Law requires you to slow down and move out of the lane adjacent to a stopped emergency vehicle. If you are not able to move over, you must slow down enough so you are prepared to stop. This law also applies to repair and recovery vehicles – including tow trucks.

3 ways you can stay safe while helping others who were involved in a crash

While friends and family members remember the kindness of Cisneros, it would be wise to consider some steps you can take to keep yourself and others safe at the scene of an accident.

  • Park at a safe distance – When you stop to help others after a collision, be sure to leave a distance of at least 100 feet between your car and other vehicles. This will help you assess the situation while providing room for emergency responders to get directly to the accident site when they arrive.
  • Assess the scene of the accident – Be sure it is safe for you to approach the vehicles involved. Use your hazard lights, traffic triangles and flares, if you have them, to alert oncoming drivers to an emergency situation up ahead.
  • Check people for injuries – In some cases, you may need to put your CPR or first-aid training to use until professionals can take over. But in other instances, you might be able to assist an accident victim by helping them remain calm.

As the story of Cisneros’ untimely death unfolds, so does the grim reminder that helping another person should not lead to your demise. In many instances, once emergency vehicles are already attending to an accident, slowing down to pass with caution is the most basic thing you can do to keep yourself and other drivers safe.