Move over, slow down: Dangerous driver habits putting roadside crews at risk

HOUSTON – It is a very dangerous way to make a living. Roadside crews and emergency responders risk their livers every day to help drivers in need.

According to AAA Texas, an average of 24 emergency responders, including tow operators, are struck and killed by vehicles while helping other drivers on the side of the road. This means someone in this line of work is either injured or killed every other week nationwide.

Andre McDaniel is a tow truck operator with Tow and Go and says, “there’s nothing you can do, just hope that the people you are helping are ok.”

McDaniel described one of his crash experiences as he was helping a driver get his disabled vehicle out of the road, “trying to service a vehicle, lights on, flashing and everything, and all of the sudden that’s when a lady comes through, and hits the back of my tow truck.”

He’s not the only one. Law enforcement shared their stories with me too.

  • Robert Parker, Harris County Sheriff’s Office Deputy, said, “it happened so fast, but my main concern was what direction do I need to go, so I don’t get ran over.”
  • Bryan Bishop, Harris County Sheriff’s Office Deputy, said, “we always like to help them get off the freeway safely, even though I’m feeling like I’m putting my life in jeopardy, I still get gratification from doing it.”
  • Harris County Sheriff Deputy Lt. Cedrick Collier said, “I’m appreciative of my guys and women that are doing this job because they’re putting their lives in harms way... our goal is not to get hit, our goal is to provide assistance on the side of the road but sometimes we get struck.”

AAA Texas found out that 42% of drivers believed not slowing down or moving over was considered dangerous to roadside crews and 23% didn’t even know the law existed! Take a look below to read more about AAA Foundation’s findings:

AAA Foundation survey results show:

  • Among drivers who report not complying with Move Over or Slow Down laws at all times, 42% thought the behavior was somewhat or not dangerous at all to roadside emergency workers. This shows drivers may not realize how risky it is for people who are working or stranded along freeways and roads close to moving traffic.
  • Nearly a quarter of those surveyed (23%) are unaware of the Move Over or Slow Down law in their state. All states have such laws.
  • And, among those who are aware of their state’s Move Over or Slow Down law, about 15% report not understanding the potential consequences for violating the law.

Additionally, a survey conducted by AAA clubs in Texas and several other states across the country found:

  • More than half of drivers associate Move Over or Slow Down laws with traditional emergency vehicles, specifically those with their red or blue lights on. But when construction zones and vehicles/motorists stranded on the shoulder are mentioned, many believe moving over is just a courtesy, not the law.
  • While more than 90% believe Move Over or Slow Down laws require them to slow down and move over when encountering a fire truck, police car, or ambulance with its lights on, a much smaller percentage (65%) believe this is required when encountering a tow truck with its lights on.

It’s not just tow providers and other first responders being killed at the roadside. Between 2016 and 2020, 1,703 people died while outside of a disabled vehicle, and 268 of those fatalities happened in Texas.

Texas “Move Over, Slow Down” law:

  • The Texas Move Over/Slow Down law requires that passing motorists move out of the lane closest to an emergency vehicle stopped on the roadway, or if they can’t safely move, reduce driving speeds to 20 miles below the posted limit.