State lawmaker hopes to address concerns over ‘dangerous’ conditions for tow truck drivers

Jan 28, 2022, 11:17 AM
Tow truck drivers...
Tow trucks lifting a semi-truck off the road. (WSDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)
(WSDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)

In November of 2021, tow truck drivers issued a plea to state lawmakers for more protection on Washington roadways. Republican State Sen. Jeff Wilson is hoping to answer those calls with a pair of bills this legislative session.

Washington tow truck drivers beg state lawmakers for more protection on roads

Washington already has what’s known as the “Slow Down, Move Over” law, which requires drivers to move over a lane when passing any emergency or construction zone. That zone extends for 200 feet on either side of the area. If you can’t safely get over, you are required to slow your speed to 10 miles an hour below the posted speed limit. Violators can be fined $214 if ticketed.

Despite that, tow truck drivers have pointed to numerous incidents over the past year where their colleagues have been killed by drivers of other vehicles violating that law. In one incident last April, tow truck operator Art Anderson had pulled over to the side of I-5 near Kelso to help a family with its disabled car. While he was providing assistance, a suspected drunk driver slammed into them, killing Anderson and two members of the family.

“The last year, our driving behavior has resulted in record fatalities,” Sen. Wilson told KIRO Newsradio’s Dave Ross. “We know things are getting more dangerous out there.”

One of Wilson’s bills — SB 5907 — would address this issue by requiring new driver training curriculum that emphasizes the state’s “Slow Down, Move Over” law, while adding signage and electronic display boards along freeways to further inform the public of the law’s requirements. It also would have the Department of Licensing collaborate with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to “develop a statewide public awareness campaign.”

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“My bill has an educational component that’s going to require us to look at ways to re-educate people that seek a driver’s license,” Wilson said. “They need to understand what this law means — that alone may prevent something, just by being aware of one of the laws already on the books.”

Another common refrain from tow truck drivers involves the ability to use different colored lights to make their vehicles more visible. Currently, they can only use red or yellow lights, but some have argued that blue lights would stand out more.

Wilson’s other bill — SB 5635 — would allow tow trucks to begin using rear-facing blue lights while stopped at the scene of an emergency or accident.

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State lawmaker hopes to address concerns over ‘dangerous’ conditions for tow truck drivers