Mother of dead York County officer urges drivers to obey PA's new move over law
It's been more than 12 years since Northern Regional Officer David Tome was fatally run down along Route 15 by a distracted driver who was speeding, applying makeup and using her cellphone.
"She was doing everything but paying attention to the road," said Tome's mother, Karen Reever. "All I have is pictures. A piece of my heart is missing also, because of a distracted driver."
Reever and her husband, David Reever — Tome's stepfather — joined with Northern York County Regional Police, PennDOT and the Center for Traffic Safety on Tuesday morning for a news conference about changes to Pennsylvania's "steer clear law," which will soon be replaced with an enhanced version with stiffer fines and penalties.
The "move over law" takes effect April 27 and increases penalties for drivers who violate it, according to Jeff Bowman, law enforcement liaison for Region 2 of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The steer clear law required drivers to move over when approaching first responders stopped alongside roadways or to slow down if moving over wasn't possible.
But starting in three weeks, drivers who cannot move over must slow down to 20 mph under the speed limit or less prior to passing police, first responders and all disabled vehicles, according to Bowman.
Points and fines: Violators face two points on their Pennsylvania licenses and, for a first offense, a $500 fine, he said.
The new law increases fines for repeat offenders. A second offense of failing to move over carries a $1,000 fine, while a third offense comes with a $2,000 fine. The fines are double those of the previous steer clear law.
The move over law also adds enhanced penalties for drivers who injure or kill someone because they failed to move over or slow down.
The new law requires drivers of disabled vehicles to use hazard lights, caution signs or other traffic-control devices — orange cones, for instance — and road flares. Drivers must use two of these three warning measures under the new law.
Bowman said 94% of all vehicle crashes are the result of human error.
Northern Regional Cpl. Erika Eiker said speeding is the biggest traffic issue and complaint in the department's 11 municipalities, a coverage area of more than 200 square miles.
She and fellow officers encounter speeders on highways such as Route 15 — where Tome was killed — as well as on rural roads and in-town streets such as in North York.
"We find that a lot of people are local," Eiker said, and are either in a hurry or on their cellphones.
Distractions: Bowman said many people don't realize that distracted driving can be something as simple as changing the radio station or taking a drink of coffee.
"Driving requires 100% focus, 100% of the time," he said.
On Tuesday morning, Northern Regional officers patrolled Route 15 in the area where Tome was killed to watch for violators of the steer clear/move over law, Chief Dave Lash said.
Between 7 a.m. and noon, they pulled over 21 drivers for failing to move over as required by the current law, according to the chief.
From March 2020 to March 2021, Northern Regional officers cited drivers for 145 violations of the steer clear law, Lash said.
Lt. Gregg Anderson said his department is known for being proactive about traffic enforcement and that it's simply something the department has always made a priority.
The death of Tome, his personal friend, cemented the department's belief in the importance of traffic enforcement, Anderson said.
About Officer Tome: A certified accident reconstructionist, Tome was placing safety cones along Route 15 in Franklin Township so he could investigate a previous fatal crash there when he was struck while standing on the side of the road Oct. 21, 2008.
Joanna Seibert, of Dillsburg was going 69 mph in a 55 mph zone, applying makeup and using her cell phone when she failed to notice the orange traffic cones closing the right southbound lane. Her Saturn VUE struck Tome, and Seibert didn't swerve or hit her brakes until after hitting the officer, prosecutors said.
In October 2010, a York County jury found Seibert guilty of homicide by vehicle and evidence-tampering in Tome's death. After the crash, she erased the user history on her iPhone, leaving investigators unable to say what she was doing on her phone, according to trial testimony.
Seibert, now 50, was sentenced to 364 days in prison, followed by six years of probation.
New citation: Court records show she was cited by state police on March 20 for disregarding a traffic lane in Carroll Township. She pleaded guilty to the summary traffic offense on Monday and paid a $154 fine.
Karen Reever said Seibert showed no remorse during her criminal trial — a fact also noted publicly at the time by the trial prosecutor and judge.
Karen Reever said she believes her son would be a ranking officer now, had he survived.
The department has never reassigned Tome's locker, has affixed memorial decals on all its vehicles and has named its substation in honor of him, according to Lash.
Its officers still wear T-shirts honoring Tome under their uniforms, the chief confirmed.
Tome was 31 when he was killed in the line of duty. His survivors include his widow and their two children, who were 4 and 1 when they lost their father.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.