An alarming number of tow operators have been struck and killed or injured on the roadside this year. Tow Times contacted sources in the towing industry to create dialogue on how to combat this deadly trend. We thank them for their candid responses, and invite future discussion to develop positive steps and ideas for operator safety.
Move Over Laws
While the towing industry is promoting awareness of Move Over laws, many question the effectiveness of the laws given the motoring public’s general lack of awareness and the number of passing motorists who fail to slow down or move over. Clearly, more needs to be done to keep operators safe, but solutions are difficult.
“We have the same frustration level as we have been working on this specific topic since 1998,” says Jack Sullivan, director of training for the Emergency Responder Safety Institute (www.respondersafety.com.) “Move Over laws have helped to some extent but they haven’t stopped the problem by any means,” adds Sullivan, a member of many safety associations and committees including the Safety, Health and Survival Section of the International Assoc. of Fire Chiefs, Fire Department Safety Officers Association and the National Fire Protection Association.
In the Move Over realm, the key words that surface are education and enforcement.
Though public knowledge of the law is limited, the industry remains committed to getting the word out. “Towers know about Move Over laws. First responders know about them. But we need to educate the public about their responsibilities to move over and slow down,” says Allan Stanley, manager, technical training and research for AAA, Automotive, and an ASE-certified auto technician. For the past 18 years Stanley, who also holds certifications from the Institute of Towing and Recovery and WreckMaster, has developed and delivered training and technical resources for AAA roadside service providers.
“We do a lot of work to make motorists aware of the situation. It’s getting better. Educating motorists and making them aware will give us the biggest bang for our buck.”
Along with education, enforcement is key.
“Laws are great, but the challenge with any law is enforcement,” says Craig Baker, vice president of the United Coalition for Motor Club Safety, the mission of which includes facilitating and encouraging the safety and professionalism of towing and recovery companies contracting with motor clubs, as well as ensuring the safety of the public they serve.
“Due to budget restrictions, many cities and counties have to pick their battles,” he says. “I can’t talk for all states, but Move Over enforcement may not be at the top of the list.”
Lack of enforcement also may be a matter not enough manpower.
“Sometimes there is a lack of enforcement because there are not enough cops on the street,” Sullivan says. “It’s a staffing issue.” In other situations, Sullivan asserts, officers may give citations to motorists for not obeying the law, but the violator tells the judge “I didn’t know about the law,” and the judge drops the charge. This can diminish an officer’s motivation to enforce the law.
“Move over laws are important, but enforcement is more important,” Godwin emphasizes.