AAA: Some may not realize danger to roadside workers

Newly released AAA research indicates that some drivers may not fully grasp the danger they pose to roadside workers, a particularly alarming finding given the recent death of a AAA tow driver in Cincinnati, one of two AAA drivers killed this year along with dozens of other first responders working at the roadside.

In fact, on average, across the U.S., every other week a first responder is killed while working at the roadside, highlighting just how dangerous it is for individuals who regularly work along the shoulders of America’s busy and congested roads.

AAA Tow Driver Glenn Ewing, 32, was killed on July 4 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. Only three weeks later, a 30-year-old driver in Colorado was also struck and killed. As of August of this year, 14 tow providers have lost their lives while helping others at the roadside.

An average of 24 emergency responders, including tow providers, are struck and killed by vehicles while working at the roadside each year, according to AAA.

“As drivers, we all share responsibility for keeping roadside workers safe. By paying attention, slowing down and moving over, away from the side of the road where work is taking place, we allow those working to do so without risk,” said Tom Wiedemann, President and CEO, AAA Club Alliance. “AAA is committed to raising awareness around this critical issue that continues to tragically claim the lives of first responders and disabled motorists.”

To protect first responders, AAA and other traffic safety advocates have led the way in getting Move Over laws passed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Yet, startling 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.

– 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.

An August AAA poll of Ohio drivers indicated a similar lack of understanding or awareness around the state’s Move Over law:

– Even though 97% of Ohio drivers responded that it is ‘very dangerous’ or ‘somewhat dangerous’ for roadside workers if motorists do not comply with the Move Over law

– And 95% of Ohio motorists said they would support such a measure

– More than a third (34%) of all Ohio drivers answered ‘unsure’ or thought there was ‘no’ Move Over law.

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.

It’s not just tow providers and other emergency responders being killed on the side of the road. Since 2015, over 1,600 people have been struck and killed while outside of a disabled vehicle and some states, though not Ohio, have extended Move Over protections to include everyone at the roadside.

“This is not just about the law. This is about drivers paying attention and looking out for others because it is literally a matter of life and death,” said Cindy Antrican, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Northwest Ohio. “Don’t just slow down to look. Slow down and move over.”

To protect roadside workers, drivers with disabled vehicles, and others, and to improve highway safety, AAA offers these precautionary tips:

– 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.