So many of us have had to call for tow truck help in the course of our driving lives to help assist us alongside the road for a car breakdown or flat tire. It's a dangerous job for those who arrive on the scene to help us. The American Automobile Association is sharing a grim reminder of just how dangerous following the deaths of two of AAA tow providers over the summer.
Tow Truck Drivers Killed
AAA is sharing two separate cases where AAA tow truck providers were killed, both during July of this year. In the first case, Glenn Ewing, 32, was killed July 4 near Cincinnati, OH, while placing a disabled vehicle on the back of a flatbed on the side of the road. He leaves behind a fiancée and two children. Three weeks later, 30-year-old David Meyer was also struck and killed while assisting a driver on the left-hand shoulder in Castle Rock, CO. AAA says as of August of this year, 14 tow providers have been killed while helping others at the roadside in 2021.
AAA says the latest roadside tragedies underscore the importance of slowing down and heeding Move Over Laws.
“Deaths like these can be avoided if drivers slow down and move over to give these people room to work safely,” said Marshall Doney, AAA President and CEO. “We can’t stress enough how important it is to pay attention so you have time to change lanes when you see AAA, an emergency responder, or simply anybody along the side of the road.”
Move Over Laws
Move Over Laws are state laws designed to protect roadside workers and law enforcement. They require motorists to move over one lane or slow down when approaching an incident where tow providers, police, firefighters or emergency medical service crews are working at the roadside. AAA says many states have also expanded their laws to cover other vehicles, such as utility and municipal (e.g. sanitation vehicles) fleets, as well as any disabled vehicle on the side of the road.
The AAA shares that new data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that among drivers who do not comply with Move Over laws at all times:
- 42% thought this behavior was somewhat or not dangerous at all to roadside emergency workers. This demonstrates that drivers may not realize how risky it is for those working or stranded along highways and roads close to moving traffic.
AAA says an average of 24 emergency responders including tow providers are struck and killed by vehicles while working at the roadside each year – meaning someone in this line of work is killed, on average, every other week. To protect these individuals, AAA says it along with other traffic safety advocates have led the way in getting Move Over laws passed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Yet, the AAA Foundation finds that –
- nearly a quarter of those surveyed (23%) are unaware of the Move Over law in the state where they live, and
- among those who are aware of their state’s Move Over laws, about 15% report not understanding the potential consequences for violating the Move Over law at all.
State Laws Vary
Fines range per law. In Texas, for example, drivers can be ticketed and receive a fine of up to $200. If a crash results that causes injury to a worker, the fine can go up to $2,000. Read more about the Texas law here. In California, failure to obey the Move Over Law can result in fines up $1,000, plus points on your driving record. Read more about California's law here. In Colorado, drivers face a $70 ticket, four penalty points, and a misdemeanor charge for failure to move over or slow down when approaching an emergency vehicle, tow truck, utility vehicle, or road maintenance vehicle with flashing lights on the side of the road. Read more about Colorado's law here. Ohio’s Move Over law requires all drivers to proceed with caution and if possible move over one lane when passing an emergency vehicle, tow truck, municipal vehicle, or road maintenance vehicle with flashing or rotating lights parked on the roadside, and violators can face fines up to $300 for a first offense. Read more about Ohio's law here.
AAA says the reality is that drivers are increasingly distracted while driving. It cites previous AAA Foundation research that has found that drivers are up to four times as likely to crash if they are talking on a cell phone while driving and up to eight times as likely to be in a crash if texting.
“If you see something, anything, on the shoulder ahead, slow down and move over,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research. “It could literally save someone’s life.”
AAA offers these precautionary tips to help protect roadside workers, drivers with disabled vehicles, and others, and to improve highway safety,:
- Remain alert, avoid distractions and focus on the task of driving.
- Keep an eye out for situations where emergency vehicles, tow trucks, utility service vehicles or disabled vehicles are stopped on the side of the road.
- When you see these situations, slow down and if possible move one lane over and away from the people and vehicles stopped at the side of the road.
Since 2007, AAA says it's been instrumental in passing Move Over laws in all states, including advocating for those laws to cover tow providers and other emergency responders. Additionally, AAA clubs have participated in educational and advocacy initiatives, creating public service announcements and reaching out to state officials. AAA says there is more work to be done and it is committed to raising awareness of the Move Over laws and the dangers associated with working at the roadside.
To read an our associated story about watching out for our first responders, click here
Photo Credit: AAA