BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Aodhan O'Ferrell is on a mission, cycling cross-country to raise awareness about move over laws.
"I'm cycling from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean," he said.
Every morning, O'Ferrell and his girlfriend unchain his bike, release the flag fastened to it, and grease the wheels in an effort to gear up for the nearly 60 miles he tries to log each day. The ambitious trip though is not just because he loves to bike. "Five and a half years ago, I was a firefighter paramedic in California and I was hit while on the highway," said O'Ferrell.
He tells WAFB's Scottie Hunter that his neck was broken in the process and he also suffered nerve and brain damage in the incident. O'Ferrell is now devoting his time to helping others because each mile he peddles, he hopes to raise awareness about the importance of moving over for stopped emergency vehicles.
"Riding across country has always been a personal dream of mine and a lot of my friends were like, 'You need to make it mean something,' so this is what I'm doing," O'Ferrell added.
The former paramedic is also racing against time. After having spinal surgery about two years ago, the effects are slowly wearing off, which means he could soon be facing paralysis. "I started feeling loss of sensation again a few months ago and yes, I am definitely racing against the clock," said O'Ferrell.
Starting in Savannah, Georgia, he has spent close to 30 days on the road, visiting local EMS, police, and fire stations along the way. This week, he spent time biking through Baton Rouge, where he stopped at the Baton Rouge Police Department, Louisiana State Police headquarters, the Louisiana State Fire Marshal's Office, and the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, just to name a few.
O'Ferrell is also documenting the entire journey on Facebook. He believes it's a way to put a face, or several, to the cause, while also encouraging folks to move over and slow down for stopped emergency vehicles.
Nick McDonner, unit commander with East Baton Rouge EMS, believes it's great the message is getting out there. He says the hair-raising moments when first responders are working a crash can be intense. "It's nice to see that somebody's trying to bring some awareness to it," he said. "This is probably one of the most dangerous situations we put ourselves in on a routine basis."
McDonner says the increased danger is why it's important drivers do their part to help first responders save lives. "It's a great help to us if people do move over and allow us room and make sure you can come to a stop if someone happens to move out in the roadway in front of you," McDonner added.
O'Ferrell hopes his cross-country journey will bring the important message to every city he passes. "I'd like it to be a testament to why these laws are being put in place and how it has changed the lives of others," said O'Ferrell.
Anyone interested can follow O'Ferrell's journey here.