By AAA KANSAS
The tragic death of a AAA tow truck driver in Ohio highlights the risks faced by emergency first responders here in Kansas and around the country.
More than 80 tow truck drivers participated in a procession in honor of 32-year old Glenn Ewing during his funeral services last week. The AAA tow truck driver was killed on July 4th while placing a disabled vehicle on the back of a flatbed on the side of the road.
“When one of our colleagues is lost, we’re all affected,” said Bryan Page, Wichita roadside assistance fleet manager for AAA Kansas. “He died while helping a driver on the side of the road – it can happen to any one of us.”
Ewing’s death illustrates why Move Over laws are critical to safety. The best thing drivers can do to keep someone on the side of the road safe is slow down, and move over into the next lane if you can do so safely.
“We can’t stress enough how important it is that drivers move over and change lanes when they see AAA or any other first responder working in and around traffic,” said Jerry Stanley, Topeka/Lawrence Roadside Assistance Fleet Manager for AAA Kansas. “By doing so you are also potentially saving someone’s life.”
Move Over laws exist in all 50 states. AAA and other traffic safety advocates have been instrumental in the passage of laws to better protect tow truck drivers, road construction workers and other first responders.
“First responders work tirelessly to make our roads safer for all of us,” said Kansas Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz. “In return, they ask to be afforded a safe place to work in order to perform their job so they may return to their families each day. We encourage everyone to please move over and slow down for these workers and help spread the word. It’s not just the law. It’s the right thing to do.”
“Troopers across Kansas have noticed that drivers are not moving over when approaching and passing emergency vehicles and roadway maintenance vehicles,” said Lieutenant Candice Breshears of the Kansas Highway Patrol. “First responders and roadway workers are dedicated to making our Kansas highways safer for everyone traveling in and through Kansas. Not only is it a Kansas law to move over, but it is also the courteous thing to do. We want everyone, including our first responders, to make it home safely to their families. Please do your part and Move Over and Slow Down for all roadway workers.”
Distractions behind the wheel
As more people hit the roads after confinement and with summer vacation travel, the number of vehicles on the road is increasing and the risks associated with distractions increase. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the national traffic safety research arm of AAA, found that drivers are four times more likely to crash if they are talking on a cell phone while driving and eight times more likely to be in a crash if texting.
“Drivers talking on a phone or otherwise distracted may not readily see a vehicle on the side of the road in enough time to safely move over to the next lane,” said Shawn Steward, manager, public and government affairs for AAA Kansas. “In safety, split seconds count.”
Kansas’ move over law
State law requires drivers approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights, including towing and recovery vehicles, traveling in the same direction, to vacate the lane closest if safe and possible to do so, or slow to a speed safe for road, weather, and traffic conditions. In Kansas, the original law took effect in 2000 to protect law enforcement officers. It has been expanded over the years to to reduce risk to roadside construction crews, emergency responders and tow operators and waste collection vehicles. It was most recently broadened during the 2021 Kansas Legislative session to include to utility and telecommunications crews.
If motorists are cited for violating this statute, they will face a $75 fine plus, potentially, additional court costs.
In Kansas designated road construction work zones alone – not even including incidents involving law enforcement officers, tow truck drivers and other roadside workers – the impact of vehicle crashes has been significant and tragic. According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, from 2010-2019, there were:
•15,925 work zone crashes
•5,126 injuries in those crashes
•65 people killed
What’s being done
Law enforcement agencies across Kansas and the nation regularly enforce Move Over law violations. AAA and its traffic safety partners will strengthen advocacy and community awareness throughout the year, including “National Move Over Day” which happens every third Saturday in October.
AAA Kansas, through a donation from the AAA Kansas Traffic Safety Fund, this year is donating sets of digital LED flares to about two dozen smaller police departments and sheriff’s offices across the Sunflower State, to help increase visibility and safety when officers work roadside emergency incidents during limited visibility times.
AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to more than 62 million members nationwide and more than three hundred fifty thousand members in Kansas. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. AAA is a non-stock, membership corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can map a route, access a COVID travel restriction map, find local gas prices and electric vehicle charging stations, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information on joining or renewing a Membership, visit www.AAA.com..