AMA cautions drivers to slow down, move over when passing tow trucks

May 14 is National Slow Down Move Over Day

  • AMA responds to a high-risk call every 14 minutes.
  • Increased driver caution helps keep the entire motoring community safe.
  • Stronger SDMO laws, and the addition of blue lights to tow trucks, could make things better.

Every year across North America, dozens of tow truck operators are tragically killed trying to help people at the roadside. Thousands more experience collisions or near-misses with oncoming traffic. Almost universally, these incidents are completely preventable.

On Canada’s first national Slow Down Move Over Day, the Alberta Motor Association is reminding motorists to slow to 60 km/h (or less, if the posted limit is lower) when passing a tow truck with flashing lights. It’s not just about following the law; it’s about protecting the roadside responders who help safeguard Alberta’s driving community.

“I was hooking up a vehicle that had stopped on Macleod Trail in the right-hand lane,” recalls Neal Joad, an AMA tow truck operator in Calgary. “In the next lane, one driver slowed down but the guy behind didn’t, and so they collided right beside where I’d just been working. It’s scary to think how close I was to not making it home that day.”

On May 14, CAA’s eight clubs across Canada will come together to draw attention to the safety risks faced by tow truck operators. In Alberta alone, AMA responds to an average 37,500 high-risk calls – that’s one every 14 minutes – to help motorists in unsafe areas. And that’s on top of regular roadside assistance requests that come with their own set of risks.

AMA believes more can be done to improve roadside safety for tow truck operators and the people they’re helping.

“In every other province with Slow Down Move Over legislation, the law applies to all traffic lanes in the same direction of travel – not just the adjacent lane,” says Jeff Kasbrick, Vice-President of Government and Stakeholder Relations for AMA. “We believe Alberta should apply its law in the same way as the rest of the country.”

AMA would also like to see blue lights added to tow trucks’ existing amber beacons – a move implemented in Saskatchewan in 2017, following the death of a tow truck operator. Research widely shows that blue lights are more visible in bad weather and low light, and are less likely to be ignored by drivers who’ve grown “blind” to amber lights, which are on everything from garbage trucks to LED road signs.

But the most important change is one that can start today: increased driver care.

“We believe every Albertan deserves a safe place to work, and that includes the side of the road,” says Kasbrick. “By making small adjustments to our driving behaviour, and giving roadside responders room to work, we can make a potentially life-saving difference.”

About AMA

The Alberta Motor Association (AMA) is among the largest membership organizations in Alberta, representing more than 975,000 members. As a leading advocate for traffic safety, travel and consumer protection and crime prevention, AMA represents the interests of its members to industry and all levels of government and helps protect the things they care about most. Visit ama.ab.ca to learn more about AMA’s products, services and member advocacy efforts.