NOTTINGHAM, MD (Thursday, July 15, 2021) –– The tragic death of a AAA tow truck driver in Ohio highlights the risks faced by emergency first responders here in Maryland and around the country.
More than 80 drivers participated in a procession in honor of 32-year old Glenn Ewing during his funeral services. The 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.
“AAA tow operators respond to more than 30 million calls for help each year, working on roadside shoulders that are frequently no wider than four feet,” said Ragina C. Ali, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. Nationwide, an average of 23 tow operators are killed at the roadside every year, with one service provider on average being killed on the job at the roadside every other week. A contributing factor to this tragic statistic is that fewer than 30% of Americans even know about move over laws.
“When one of our colleagues is lost, we’re all affected,” said Garland Amaker, Supervisor, AAA Fleet – Baltimore. “Glenn 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. Locally, on November 7, 2019, a tow truck driver, David Reinerio Pineda Alvarez, was killed in a fatal hit-and-run crash in Prince George’s County, while assisting a AAA member in the area of southbound Branch Avenue and Coventry Way in Temple Hills, Maryland.
“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,” Amaker added. “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 and other first responders.
Earlier this year, two Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police Officers were struck and injured in separate incidents, by vehicles that failed to move over. “First responders work tirelessly to make our roadways safer for everyone,” said Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police Chief, Colonel Kevin M. Anderson. “These professionals are our family members, our neighbors, our colleagues and our friends; it’s our duty to MOVE OVER, SLOW DOWN and keep them safe. It’s the law and the right thing to do.”
According to the Maryland State Police, in 2014, “Troopers went from issuing 5,408 citations and 12,179 warnings to 1,349 citations and 5,677 warnings in 2018 for Move Over violations. Through Sept. 26, 2019, troopers have issued 1,347 citations and 4,979 warnings for similar violations.” In addition, statewide, “more than 17,000 motorists have received citations or warnings from all police for violating the “Move Over” law in Maryland since the law expanded in October 2018. From 2014 to 2018, more than 3,400 people were injured, and 46 people were killed in work zone crashes in Maryland.”
“Our mission is to protect and serve the citizens of Maryland,” Colonel Woodrow W. Jones III, Maryland State Police Superintendent said. “While law enforcement officers, fire and medical personnel, tow truck drivers or any other service and utility workers are operating daily on our roads, it is vital that motorists move over and slow down to keep them safe while conducting their operations. We are proud to join AAA Mid-Atlantic in this ongoing effort to keep our public safety workers safe on Maryland roads.”
Distractions Behind the Wheel
As more people hit the roads after confinement and summer 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 Ali, who is also a former Baltimore police officer. “When safety is a factor, split seconds count and can be the difference between life and death.”
Maryland’s Move Over Law
In 2018, representatives from Maryland State Police and the Maryland Department of Transportation joined AAA and other officials and traffic safety advocates to announce the expansion of Maryland’s Slow Down, Move Over law. These laws are designed to save the lives of our police officers, emergency response workers, tow truck operators, and with the expanded law in Maryland, public service workers, by providing an extra barrier of safety for them as they work along the side of the road.
“Our emergency responders and highway workers are often within inches of travel lanes, and it is important for all motorists to remember their responsibility to Be the Focused Driver, especially when approaching work zones and emergency vehicles,” said Chrissy Nizer, Administrator at Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration, who also serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative.
To protect emergency responders and roadside workers, AAA and the MDTA Police offer these tips:
- Always remain alert. Avoid distractions and focus on the task of driving.
- Watch for situations where emergency vehicles, tow trucks, utility service vehicles or disabled vehicles are stopped on the side of the road.
- When approaching an emergency vehicle with lights flashing on the side of a two-lane roadway, drivers should slow down to a speed that is safe and approach with caution unless otherwise directed by an emergency worker on the scene.
- On multi-lane roadways, slow down when you see the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle at the roadside and, if possible, move over into an adjacent lane. If you are unable to switch lanes, slow to a speed that is safe and reasonable. Some states recommend slowing to a speed that is 10-20 mph less than the posted speed limit.
AAA and its traffic safety partners will strengthen advocacy and community awareness throughout the year, including ‘National Move Over Day,” which occurs the third Saturday in October every year.
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AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to more than 62 million members nationwide and more than one million members in Maryland. 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.