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Highways near Calgary are 'kill zones, says veteran towing operator

"People travel at excessive speed, at crazy speeds. They are coming by you at 110, 120, 130 kilometres an hour in the slow lane with all our lights going."

CARSTAIRS - Veteran area tow truck operator and business owner Kirk Lewis says changes must be made without delay to better protect emergency vehicle operators on Highway 2 and other roadways.

Responding to new provincial rules requiring drivers to slow to 60 km/h in the lane next to emergency vehicles at scenes, Lewis says the slow-down rules should apply to all lanes.

“It’s crazy to think that we can’t slow down everybody to 60 kilometres an hour for the safety of one human being in Alberta,” said Lewis. “What I say to people out there is that if you get the phone call and it’s your child or loved one who gets maimed or killed, you have a different perspective on it.

“It should absolutely be both lanes. When people are approaching emergency services of any kind on the highway, it should be 60 kilometres an hour in all lanes, three lanes, two lanes, one lane, it doesn’t matter. It’s not a complicated issue; it just needs to be done.”

The owner of Carstairs Towing, Highway 2 Towing, and Heavy Rescue Towing, Lewis says towing association representatives, as well as representatives from police, EMS, ambulance, sheriffs, fire departments and other stakeholders, must be consulted regarding the situation.

“I’m really glad that the government is stepping up, but I think they need to have more input from these associations,” he said. “Obviously these are bureaucrats who are not working on the side of the road who make these decisions and that’s sad.

“If you want positive results, you need to approach it from all angles. The government needs to step up and involve some of the people who really understand this.”

For his part, Lewis say he has first-hand experience with the dangers of vehicles speeding past emergency scenes.

“I’ve been clipped,” he said. “I’ve been clipped by mirrors. I’ve been clipped by big trucks. People travel at excessive speed, at crazy speeds. They are coming by you at 110, 120, 130 kilometres an hour in the slow lane with all our lights going right now. It happens every call. It’s a kill zone.”

Lewis is taking proactive measures in light of the current situation, he said.

“We work Highway 2 daily and we are actually putting blocker trucks together and we are not going on that highway without a blocker truck. And I am taking that on because the government doesn’t mandate it yet.”

A blocker truck is a vehicle with full traffic control apparatus, including digital signs, to warn oncoming traffic about an emergency scene ahead. 

Dan Singleton

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