The Automobile Club of Southern California, California Highway Patrol, Caltrans and Frank Orozco, owner of Goldline Towing in Ventura County, gathered at the Historic Auto Club Building in downtown Los Angeles today to remind drivers about California’s Slow Down Move Over Law.
Helping stranded drivers on the side of the road should not be one of America’s most deadly jobs, but it is. On average, two emergency responders, including tow providers, are hit and killed every month. Roadside crashes are notably deadly for tow workers. Government data shows that tow providers are killed at a rate of almost 43 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to just three for all other industries.
Move Over laws require drivers to slow down or change lanes whenever first responders such as police, EMS, fire, Caltrans vehicles and tow trucks are on the roadside. Some states also have laws requiring drivers to change lanes or slow down when approaching a broken-down vehicle. These laws are important because being on the side of the road is a hazardous environment, especially since drivers are more distracted than ever.
While all 50 states have Move Over laws, motorist awareness and compliance are inconsistent. Drivers who don’t slow down or move over add another layer of unnecessary risk for individuals trying to do their jobs and make it home safely at the end of the day. With highway speeds often over 65 mph, drivers may find it difficult to spot and react to incident response personnel, including tow truck drivers, police, and emergency responders.
Previous AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research found:
- 23% of drivers report not being aware of the Move Over law in their state and 30% do not completely understand the law
- 77% are aware of the law and most (91%) say they are comfortable complying with the law
- However, among people who do not comply with Move Over laws, 42% thought this behavior was only somewhat or not dangerous at all to roadside emergency workers
- Other reasons given by drivers who don’t comply with the law include feeling that they don’t have enough space to change lanes safely and that slowing down could cause a crash with another vehicle
“Surveys by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicate that some people do not realize how risky it is to be along the side of the road close to fast-moving traffic,” said Auto Club Vice President of Automotive Services Nannalee Haywood. “All drivers should remember that the people who come to our rescue on the side of the road, need space to do their work, and they also want to get home safely to their families at the end of each day.”
The Foundation also surveyed tow workers, emergency responders, and road maintenance workers on their experiences with roadside jobs. Of those surveyed, 60% had experienced a near miss while working at the roadside, while an astonishing 15% had survived being hit by a passing vehicle.
Frank Orozco is one of those statistics. On February 4, 2023, Orozco responded to a stranded Auto Club member who ran out of gas on US 101 in Ventura County when another driver hit him and ran from the scene. Orozco was rushed to a hospital for treatment. He survived the crash but continues to use a wheelchair.
“My life has changed dramatically since I’ve been injured. It’s made me look at life in a different way. It’s made me more aware of my family,” said Orozco.
To increase awareness and understanding of Move Over laws, AAA partners with emergency responders, state departments of transportation, and other roadside workers on public outreach to educate motorists on their responsibilities when they approach a vehicle stopped on the side of the road with flashing lights and the danger inactions may pose to roadside workers. To protect those working or stranded at the roadside, AAA recommends drivers:
- 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.
AAA also supports the International Towing Museum’s Wall of the Fallen and Survivor Fund to raise awareness and assist the families of tow providers who have died while performing their job. Each year, new names are added to the Wall of the Fallen to recognize and honor those who have died and to bring awareness to the dangers faced by tow providers. The Survivor Fund financially assists the families of tow providers that have died while performing their job. This Saturday, October 21, is National Move Over Day, which is a day to remind the public about the importance of following Slow Down Move Over laws.