The year 2021 has been challenging for AAA, particularly the fate of two AAA tow providers who were struck and killed while assisting stranded motorists. Glenn Ewing, 32, was killed last July 4th near Cincinnati, Ohio, while lifting a disabled vehicle on the back of his flatbed truck on the roadside. Three weeks later, David Meyer, 30, was struck and killed while assisting a driver on the left-hand shoulder in Castle Rock, Colorado.
The Grim Reality
Alarmingly, the numbers are rising. As of August 2021, no less than 14 tow providers lost their lives while helping other motorists on the side of the road. However, towing personnel and emergency responders are not the only ones at risk. According to AAA, 1,600 people have been struck and killed while standing near or working on a disabled vehicle since 2015.
The most disturbing fact is from a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (PDF). Data has shown that 23 percent of drivers were unaware of the Move Over Law in the state where they live – even though all 50 states and the District of Columbia have Move Over Laws. The study also shows that 42 percent who do not comply with move over laws believe their behavior was somewhat or not dangerous at all to roadside emergency workers.
“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
A Move Over Law is, in effect, exactly what it sounds like. These laws require motorists to move over one lane or slow down when approaching police, firefighters, tow providers, or emergency medical service crews working at the roadside. Furthermore, many states are expanding their Move Over Laws to cover utility vehicles or any disabled vehicle on the side of the road.
AAA has been instrumental in passing Move Over Laws in all U.S. states since 2007. In addition, AAA continues to advocate for Move Over Laws to cover tow providers, road maintenance crews, municipal vehicles, and other emergency responders. Despite organizing educational and advocacy initiatives to raise public awareness of the Move Over Laws, AAA wishes to reiterate the dangers of working on the roadside while educating drivers to slow down and move over at the first sight of a roadside emergency.
Industry veteran and International Towing Hall of Fame inductee Linda Unruh is a fierce advocate for the Slow Down Move Over Law (SDMO) in all 50 states. Her son, Bobby Unruh, was killed on the roadside while assisting a motorist in 2017. Unruh’s advocacy paid off in New Mexico when the state recognized the SDMO law as Bobby’s Law, named after her son killed in the line of duty. AAA and safety advocates like Unruh are pushing to establish a National Slow Down Move Over law to prevent needless roadside deaths and accidents.
Prevention Is The Best Cure
Increasing driver education and awareness of Move Over Laws is a good start, but distracted driving plays a huge role in preventing most roadside accidents. AAA notes that drivers are increasingly distracted while driving, and multiple studies show drivers are more likely to crash when talking on the phone or texting. Consider these helpful driving tips to protect roadside workers or drivers with disabled vehicles and improve highway safety:
- Stay alert, avoid distractions, and focus on the task of driving.
- Keep an open eye (and ear) for tow trucks, emergency vehicles, and any disabled vehicles on the roadside.
- When you see personnel or disabled vehicles, slow your vehicle down and move one lane away, if possible.
“If you see something, anything, on the shoulder ahead, slow down and move over,” concluded Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research at AAA. “It could literally save someone’s life.”