On Sunday, Nov. 27, a tow truck driver was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver while pulled over to assist a motorist. This accident marks the third time this year that a tow truck driver was killed while acting as a first responder in Tampa. This accident has left some in our city wondering: what is behind all of these accidents?
The tow truck community is in mourning over the loss of the victim, Danny Ray Hand. Hand, an operator for Crockett’s Towing and Recovery, had followed procedure by parking on the outside shoulder with his caution lights activated before the accident, according to a report by the Florida Highway Patrol.
“Once again, we’ve lost one of our brothers to another drunk driver,” Tow truck operator and safety advocate Ginger Darling explained to News Channel 8. “People aren’t being responsible. People aren’t being considerate of other people […] We tow truck drivers are first responders.”
So, what could be the possible cause of these accidents?
Tampa’s High DUI Rates
All too often, fatal accidents caused by a failure to move over are the result of a impaired driver, like the alleged drunk driver who struck Hand. Just last month, another tow truck driver, Troy E. McGuire, was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver on the side of I-75 while assisting a stranded motorist, according to Tampa Bay Times.
This is a serious problem in Tampa, which has some of the deadliest rates of drunk driving in the state. More people died per capita due to fatal drunk driving crashes in Hillsborough County than in the state of Florida as a whole in 2013, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Some believe that the Tampa Public Transportation Commission’s recent legalization of Uber and Lyft may help to improve Tampa’s frightening rate of DUI deaths. However, until Uber and Lyft can officially operate legally in 2017, it will yet to be seen if ridesharing could be the silver bullet for Tampa’s drunk driving problem.
Not Enough Awareness of the Move Over Law
Giving safe clearance to first responders on the side of the road isn’t just common courtesy — it’s the law in our state.
Move Over Laws have been passed in all 50 states, but there is shockingly little awareness of them. 71 percent of Americans have not heard of Move Over Laws, according to a national poll sponsored by the National Safety Commission.
The Move Over Law requires motorists to move over a lane or slow down to 20 mph below the speed limit when passing a first responder pulled over on the side of the road. If you fail to move over for first responders in Florida, you can receive a ticket and three points on your license.
There is some hope though. In the same poll by the National Safety Commission, 86 percent of those polled support the enactment of Move Over Laws in all 50 states, and 90 percent believe that roadside emergencies place first responders in danger.
The Push to Improve Enforcement
Without greater enforcement, the Move Over Law cannot protect first responders from reckless drivers. Following the death of Danny Ray Hand, many in the towing community echo the sentiment that the law needs to be enforced more. One operator is planning a memorial drive to promote the enforcement of the Move Over Law, according to an article by the Tampa Bay Times.
“I would love for police to start enforcing this more,” Ginger Darling explained to the Tampa Bay Times. “I challenge the lawmakers to make this happen.”
But until the FHP and other enforcement agencies find a truly effective way to raise awareness and improve enforcement of the Move Over Law, first responders will continue to be put at risk daily on our city’s highways.
Car Accidents: Not Just a Problem for Tow Truck Drivers
Tow truck drivers and other first responders are put at risk every time they pull over to assist motorists in need of rescue, but they aren’t the only ones who need to be wary of car accidents. If you or someone you love has recently been hurt in a car accident caused by the careless actions of another motorist, we may be able to help.
Read more to learn how our car accident attorneys negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf to try and get you the compensation you deserve. If you are ready to pursue a claim, fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form today.