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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJune 12 - June 18, 2019

Move Over Law Gets Into Driver's Manual

Driver 149f1By Randall C. Resch

As you already know, the Spirit Ride is making its way to Baltimore's American Towman Exposition next month. It has been publicized as the longest run, most traveled, and, longest consecutive public service message ever to hit America's highways. Its tower participation and media presence has been simply awesome.

Unless you live under a rock, or some planet far, far, away, you've seen what significance Spirit Ride has brought to the forefront of first responder safety. Its message is slowly making its way to the audience where it's drastically needed.

Spirit Ride has reached literally millions of viewers who've watched news broadcasts, or they've seen it firsthand as it rolled through their communities. However, as everything in life must come to an end, the destiny of Spirit Ride hangs in the balance.

Are SDMO Laws Working?

Awhile back, B/A Products' Chip Kauffman and I had a lengthy conversation about the Spirit Ride and whether or not I thought the message of Move Over was coming across. Counting the number of tow operator fatalities since November 2016, I'd say that a vast number of motorists still have no clue that Move Over exists nor do they actively participate in Move Over requirements. If I had to guess, I'd venture to say that one out of 10 cars may move over as required by law.

Although there are sporadic news articles reporting that some highway patrols have stepped up Move Over enforcement, the rest of law enforcement, for whatever reasons, doesn't. I oftentimes think that the best way to make someone remember something important is to hit them in their wallet, and make increased enforcement the norm.

But, motorists and their attorneys aggressively blame special enforcement and cops that write tickets only as a means to generate income to the agency's coffers. Not that the motoring public fails to recognize that as many as 300 tow operators have been killed working shoulder-side incidents, that number doesn't reflect the totality of all tower's struck, and doesn't include status and data of other first responder incidents and deaths.

The Future

No matter what direction Spirit Ride takes, there's plenty of work to be done. Spirit Ride has been, hands down, the best catalyst for towers and this industry to continue the momentum gained by its presence on Move Over.

Last week I went to one of our local DMVs to play in their circus of smog and registration. I spoke to a DMV supervisor asking if California included Move Over verbiage in the 2018 Driver Handbook and if there was question about it on the motor vehicle test. The supervisor quickly snagged a handbook, and thumbed to an inside page displaying specific narrative that's included in the handbook.

Under the heading of, "Move Over, Slow Down," the narrative reads:

"Drivers are required to move over a lane, if safe to do so, or slow down when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle or tow truck that is displaying emergency flashing lights or amber warning lights while it is stopped on the side of a state highway or freeway. The law is designed to reduce the deaths of police officers, tow truck drivers, paramedics, Caltrans employees, and other emergency personnel where are aiding, stranded or injured motorists, or involved in road work. Use caution if lane changes are required."

California's Move Over law has been in effect since 2007; yet, as many as 19 California tow operators have been killed. Although the Spirit Ride has elevated the awareness, the number of tow fatality statistics don't give me a warm feeling that motorists are onboard with its meaning and requirements.

It's my opinion that Move Over laws don't work, as the same dangerous conditions still apply when working highway and shoulder incidents. However, to know that Move Over is now in our state's handbook makes me feel better knowing that the message of Move Over is inching its way to the motoring public. It's a small win for the industry.

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame, and, a recipient of the 2017 Dave Jones Leadership Award.
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