Every year, 60 tow truck operators in Arizona lose their lives while working to clear roadside crashes.
Often times, it’s due to a driver under the influence or a distracted driver that takes their eyes off the road for just a second.
Saturday, more than 100 tow truck operators along with responders from numerous Valley agencies took part in a parade that stretched from Tempe to Tolleson for National Move Over Day. It’s all to raise as much awareness as possible about the Move Over AZ law.
It’s not only important for tow truck operators to wear reflectors and keep their head on a swivel, but also for drivers on the road to move over if they see a tow truck.
“It’s real… it’s real life when those vehicles are right here,” said Angela Barnett of the Arizona Professional and Towing Association. “It’s scary.”
Barnett thinks back to a lot of close calls while working as a tow operator. Typically, they respond to anywhere between 7 to 10 calls in a 12-hour shift.
“We dispatched a driver on a call eastbound 202 at McClintock off right for a stranded motorist,” said Conor Gleason of Priority Towing.
He reflects back on a heartbreaking loss 12 years ago, when he was working for another company here in the Valley.
“A vehicle came by and struck our tow operator while he was loading the vehicle,” he said. “The tow operator went flying into the back of the tow truck and nobody knew that that had occurred because the person drove off.”
Joey’s death hit home for Gleason.
“Joey Rubio was 36 years old at the time,” he said. “I’m 36 years old as well. Joey had kids… I have kids.”
“Unfortunately, that’s the reality of our business… that is a risk that we take every time we are dispatched to a vehicle on the side of the road,” Gleason said.
Barnett and Gleason are asking drivers to pay attention.
“Give us some room to do our job,” he said. “Scoot over a little bit, when you’re driving through an incident where there’s police and fire and medical and tow trucks, look up, stop texting, pay attention to what’s going on and slowly proceed through that intersection.”
“We want to go home at night,” Barnett said.
She says the Arizona law isn’t just for tow truck operators.
“I mean, if you’re broke down on the side of the road and you have your flashing lights on, it applies to you as well,” she said. “They should slow down or move over, because you could be hit and killed just like us. Unfortunately, Joey made the ultimate sacrifice, but we just don’t want to see that ever again.”
Responders from ADOT, FHWA, Emergency Management, fire departments and police departments took part in Saturday’s parade.
A congressional resolution was introduced by Arizona to make national move over day the third Saturday of every October.