While on the road, it's not just our journey that matters. It's the safety of everyone sharing the road. In an increasingly busy world, it's crucial that we take a moment to prioritize the well-being of others too.
And one way of ensuring that is for motorists to reduce their speed and change lanes when approaching first responders working on our highways including tow truck operators, paramedics, law enforcement, firefighters, patrol staff, and construction crews.
This simple act can make a world of difference by preventing potential accidents and helping us demonstrate respect and consideration for the dedicated professionals who ensure our safety.
Failing to slow down and move over can have dire consequences.
The lives of emergency personnel are at risk each time they respond to a call or assist a stranded motorist. By neglecting to adhere to this principle, we put these individuals in harm's way.
Across North America, nearly 100 tow truck drivers are killed every year after being struck by oncoming vehicles while helping stranded motorists with flat tires, breakdowns, and collisions.
Unfortunately, this happened in Saskatchewan as well.
In 2017, CAA tow truck operator Courtney Schaefer tragically died after being struck by a semi-truck on the side of the highway near Esterhazy while assisting a motorist who called for help.
And there are also countless near misses that tow truck operators have to endure.
Dave Wiwchar, a fleet manager at CAA Saskatchewan, based in Regina, experienced one while picking up a Member’s Ford F-150 on Highway 1 between Regina and Grand Coulee.
“I had the Member get out of the truck and stand in the ditch while I picked up his vehicle,” recalls Wiwchar. “After securing the passenger side, I went around to the driver’s side to do the same.
As I was doing this, a semi came very close. The wind drag from the semi blew me over onto the pavement. The Member came running around the truck as he thought I got struck.”
CAA Saskatchewan has long advocated for the protection of roadside assistance workers through Slow Down Move Over legislation.
Schaefer’s death also helped push legislative change in Saskatchewan that allows for the use of blue and amber lights on tow trucks, as well as fines for motorists driving faster than 60 km/h when passing emergency vehicles and first responders on the highway.
CAA Saskatchewan annually recognizes the second Tuesday in May as CAA Slow Down Move Over Day to bring attention to this important safety issue.
How to practice "Slow Down Move Over"
Implementing the "Slow Down Move Over" principle is relatively straightforward, yet its impact can be immense. Here are some key steps to follow:
As you approach a stopped first responder vehicle, decrease your speed to 60 km/h on Saskatchewan highways. Slowing down allows you to react effectively to any unexpected situations that may arise.
When passing a stopped vehicle, move to the lane farthest away from it, if it is safe to do so.
This provides a safety buffer and minimizes the risk of collisions. Remember, it's not just a legal obligation; it's an act of safety, kindness, and consideration.
Be Alert and Aware
Always stay vigilant and scan the road ahead for any signs of first responder vehicles.
Watch for flashing lights, reflective vests, and other indicators that signal the presence of first responders helping motorists and construction crews working on the roadside.
Spread awareness about the "Slow Down Move Over" principle among your friends, family, and colleagues. Encourage them to join the cause and be part of the collective effort to enhance road safety.
We urge you to know the risks because it truly is a matter of life and death. To learn more about the slow down move over safety message, visit us at caask.ca/safety.