WESTLOCK – A Dec. 22 accident on Westlock-area roads has pushed local towing company County Towing to join the Alberta Motor Association (AMA) in lobbying the government to allow blue and amber lights on tow trucks.
A blue and amber light combination provides more visibility, says County Towing manager Kim Landry, who explained that they are often associated with police and are more likely to cause drivers to slow down when approaching.
Every year, AMA tow truck drivers respond to half a million calls to service, 37,500 of which are emergency calls, which includes collisions, wildlife accidents and rollovers. Each operator in Alberta experiences three to four near-misses a year and in a survey done by AMA, 75 per cent of Albertans support the push for blue lights on tow trucks.
“Blue lights can save lives,” Landry said. “Amber lights are great for ideal weather conditions, but people have a misconception that they don’t need to slow down when they see amber lights.”
While the operator was not injured in the accident that wrecked one of the company’s three trucks, it highlighted the need for better visibly and cooperation from drivers approaching accident scenes. While tow trucks fall into the emergency vehicle category, they are not permitted to have blue lights under Albertan law as they’re reserved for law-enforcement vehicles only.
“We just want to be heard and we want (the government) to know this is an urgent problem. A tow truck driver is killed every day in this country and people tend to look down on us, but when they can’t get home, we’re the ones who drive them home. When they’re at home during blizzards, we’re the ones who have to work outside. These men and women have families at home, and we just want to get them home,” said Landry. “When you see amber lights, slow down.”
Most calls come during poor conditions, be it blizzards or pouring rain, and the biggest risk to operators comes from inattentive drivers. While tow truck drivers take precautions to set up a perimeter with high-visibility pylons and flash their amber lights, inattentive drivers still pose a risk according to Landry.
In Alberta, it is law to slow down to 60 km/h and provide additional space when approaching emergency vehicles, including law enforcement, fire, ambulances and tow trucks. Speeding fines double at emergency scenes.
While lobbying efforts are underway Landry encourages those in support of the initiative to send a letter to their MLA expressing their support.
In the meantime, however, Landry asks drivers to slow down and move over when approaching tow truck operators doing their job on the side of the road.
“By people taking the initiative of slowing down and driving safe, it makes our drivers feel safe,” added Landry.