Just last month, on February 7, 2020, a motorist struck and killed Timothy Williams, a tow truck driver for Affordable Towing in Springfield, MO. Williams was working on the side of Highway 65 when the accident occurred. More than 100 tow trucks drove in procession from all over Missouri on February 15, 2020, to honor Williams. Tow truck driver Kevin Paxman, the owner of C&H Tow and Recovery, said, “We all live out there, and we all are out in that traffic. In 60 miles per hour traffic, 80 miles per hour traffic, we’re out there hooking up a vehicle, underneath a vehicle, and getting them out to safety.” Williams’s death is the reason the Missouri “Move Over” law is so critical for motorists and first responders. On average, one tow truck driver is killed every six days in the United States while providing emergency assistance on the side of the nation’s roadways.
Across the United States, multiple state and local governments have adopted some version of a “Move Over” law meant to keep first responders safe from distracted motorists while in high-risk situations. The first “move over” laws in the United States came into existence after a serious 1994 accident in Lexington, South Carolina. On January 28, 1994, paramedic James Garcia responded to a motorist whose car had gone off of Highway 6. While the motorist was unhurt, Garcia was struck by a driver traveling 45 miles per hour, which resulted in a broken left arm and left leg. Since no “Move Over” laws existed at the time, Garcia was at fault for the accident because he was blocking the lane. Garcia said, “You got to be kidding me. I ought to be able to stand in the road and do my job.”
Two years later, after working with the state government, Garcia was able to get the first “move over” law passed in South Carolina. The law required passing motorists to use extra caution when passing flashing lights and emergency scenes. Since then, states across America have adopted similar laws. Missouri’s “Move Over” law first took effect in 2002 and applied to emergency vehicles with red and blue lights. The law has since been expanded twice, and it now includes tow trucks and their drivers.
Missouri’s “Move Over” Law states:
“Upon approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying lighted red or red and blue lights, the driver of every motor vehicle shall:
(1)Proceed with caution and yield the right-of-way, if possible with due regard to safety and traffic conditions, by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the stationary vehicle, if on a roadway having at least four lanes with not less than two lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle; or
(2)Proceed with due caution and reduce the speed of the vehicle, maintaining a safe speed for traffic conditions.
The law is meant to protect the lives of the men and women who work roadside in emergency services, including fire and rescue workers, ambulance personnel, law enforcement, and tow truck drivers. Violating this law is considered a Class A misdemeanor.
The best thing that motorists can do in case of a stopped emergency vehicle or first responder is to follow the law. Move over, if possible, or reduce speed to ensure the safety of the first responders. Other things that motorists should do to prevent any harm to emergency responders include:
Santa Fe Tow Service is dedicated to keeping both Missouri’s and Kansas’s roads safe with high-quality towing services and customer-oriented hospitality. As a family business, we proudly provide personal service to every customer call we receive. We are proud to provide emergency tow services to the Kansas Highway Patrol, the Kansas Turnpike Authority, the Missouri Highway patrol, the Joplin Police Department, and all law enforcement agencies in Johnson County, Kansas. Protect our fellow tow service providers and us on the road by paying attention to emergency roadside workers and moving over when you see flashing lights. You can save a life!