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Drivers caught in lane-change sting

Failing to change lanes while passing a car that had been pulled over by a police officer cost Dave Funderburk — and 31 other drivers — $287 on Thursday.

Thirteen officers from multiple agencies cited 32 drivers for failure to maintain a safe distance from an emergency vehicle and issued 29 warnings during a four-hour saturation patrol along Highway 62 Thursday morning.

The traffic enforcement operation, which was publicized on TV and radio stations beforehand, stretched from Poplar Drive in Medford to Eagle Point.

Officers from the Jackson County Sheriff's Department Traffic Team, the Medford Police Department, the Oregon State Police and the Eagle Point Police Department also cited 13 people for speeding and 23 people for miscellaneous violations.

According to a law established in 2004, a driver must change lanes or, if a lane change is unsafe, reduce speed when passing an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing on highways with two or more lanes going in one direction. On residential or single-lane streets, drivers must slow to 10 mph below the speed limit while passing an emergency vehicle. Failure to do so will result in a Class B infraction and a $287 ticket, said Jackson County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Marty Clark.

In January 2010 the law will be extended to include road crews, tow trucks and litter crews.

During Thursday's operation, an officer would stop someone for a traffic violation while other officers waited to catch drivers who were not maintaining the appropriate distance or speed.

"Our main purpose is to educate the public on traffic laws such as this one," Clark said.

"There's been a few close calls. One of my officers came close to being hit giving a DUII (driving under the influence of intoxicants) citation to someone on a weekday morning."

Clark said police chose Highway 62 because the speed limit is 45 mph and because it has four lanes, dense traffic and wide shoulders. He said saturation patrols also are being planned for Highway 99 and Interstate 5.

Funderburk, a Shady Cove resident, was cited for not changing lanes when passing an emergency vehicle on Highway 62. In the time he was pulled over, he said he saw about eight cars pass without switching lanes or slowing down, and three other vehicles were pulled over. Funderburk said he felt it was more of a revenue operation than an education operation.

"That's a thousand bucks in five minutes," he said.

"In the process of giving me a ticket, there was no so-called 'education.' He just gave me the ticket."

Funderburk said he had not been aware of the law and would have preferred a letter in the mail rather than a $287 ticket to make him aware.

"I guess it's totally legal, but it sounds like something they'd do in Nazi Germany," he said.

Reach intern Teresa Thomas at 776-4464 or at intern1@mailtribune.com.