Leduc, AB,

Slow down or move over when passing tow trucks

If you’ve ever had a flat tire on the highway, you’ve probably felt that stomach-clenching feeling of a vehicle whizzing by you at the side of the road. Speed seems so relative from the climate-controlled comfort of our car or truck, but when a vehicle zips by at 110 km/hr even the bravest men and women feel a shiver.

Now imagine that’s your office.

For AMA Roadside Assistance operators, the tow truck is their workplace and the side of the road is where they take care of business. The peace of mind tow truck operators provide to stranded motorists sometimes comes at an extreme price.

Recently, an AMA operator was responding to a call on a freeway in Calgary, laying out pylons to alert drivers to the stalled vehicle ahead. Despite the flashing lights of the tow truck marking the scene, an oncoming vehicle struck our driver, sending him to hospital with serious (but thankfully non-life threatening) injuries. The operator followed his training and his instincts, jumping at the last moment so the oncoming windshield absorbed the impact. It could have been oh so much worse. 

On July 27, AMA partnered with RCMP and Alberta Transportation to set up a tow truck rescue scene along the QE2 highway outside of Leduc, pulling over motorists to offer a friendly warning and a heart to heart chat about what's at stake when speeding by highway workers. Having the RCMP’s flashing lights helped slow traffic down, but when the boys in blue aren’t around, AMA Service Vehicle Operators like Darren Klassen face a different situation. While some drivers know to slow down or pull over a lane, others get fixated on the tail lights in front of them and miss what's happening on the road ahead.

“AMA has the best high-risk training around, but it can only do so much if drivers don’t give us room to work,” said Klassen. “It takes that first person to slow down or move over, and then everyone else tends to follow. I just want to make it home safe and sound for dinner with my family at the end of my shift. Showing that respect makes the biggest difference to us.”

Since 2005, Alberta’s traffic laws require all drivers to slow to 60km/hr or slower in the adjacent lane when passing emergency vehicles with their lights on. Move over one lane if possible to give them room to work safely. Tow trucks - along with police cars, fire trucks and ambulances - deserve the respect of a safe workplace, which is why fines are doubled when drivers speed by an emergency vehicle or tow truck.

Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason was on hand to reinforce that message.

“You can see by the demonstration right here that we need to educate more drivers so they know they need to slow down,” said Minister Mason. “First responders make your safety their priority, so please make their safety your priority.”

And with the busy August long weekend approaching, law enforcement will be patrolling Alberta highways to make sure motorists get the message. “In 2015, the RCMP and the Alberta Sheriffs handed out 662 tickets for speeding past emergency vehicles. So far this year, we’ve handed out nearly 400, so that is a significant increase,” said RCMP Sgt. Darrin Turnbull.

Download and use these simple images to show the proper procedure for passing emergency vehicles or tow trucks when they are on the shoulder or sticking out into the roadway.