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GRIDLOCK GUY: Woodstock wrecker driver’s death tragic and avoidable


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This just plain happens too often. Any time is too often.

On Thursday, October 19, wrecker operator Frank Ingram lost his life on I-575/southbound south of Sixes Road (Exit 11) in Holly Springs. Ingram, the owner of Woodstock’s Ingram Towing and Impound Service, was preparing to load a large truck onto his own. A passing driver struck and killed Ingram.

Ingram had been hit and injured on the job before, his family said. Lightning struck twice and, this time, fatally.

But the chances of tow truck operators, first responders, construction workers and garbage people getting hit by passing motorists seem to be far higher than getting zapped from the sky.


These are dangerous jobs, but they should not have to be. We, the drivers, have chosen to make those that assist us fear for their lives.

The ensuing investigation of Ingram’s death shut down I-575/southbound for approximately two hours. A routine hook-and-tow operation turned into a severe tragedy, a life suddenly snuffed out, a family shattered. And, less importantly, but significant nonetheless, it morphed into a closure that delayed hundreds of people.

Former GDOT HERO operator and current tow truck operator Andrew Martz has dealt with this danger for years.

“I’d have to say even back in my HERO days with all the red lights on the truck it’s the same problems: drivers flying by either obviously on their phones or simply not even batting an eye as they go by,” Martz, who now works for Marietta Wrecker Service, told the AJC and 95.5 WSB. “Some people wait until they get right up on us to slam on their brakes and try to move over, while almost causing accidents at the same time.”


While Martz has plenty of experience on the side of the road, his job is still unnerving. “Pretty scary, given you’re standing there not knowing what’s about to happen.”

These tragedies and near misses may conjure an image of a listless driver in a sports car, juking in and out of traffic. But Martz said he feels the highest danger around large trucks - the ones with professional drivers. “The biggest thing for me are the big trucks [whose drivers] don’t bat an eye. You have to hold your hat on or it’s going to get sucked into traffic by the wind off the truck.” Harrowing.

I asked Martz, who also routinely calls our WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center to report information, what he thought could be done to stymie this major issue. He first suggestion harkened back to his HERO days. “The police in Holly Springs used to hang out behind our trucks with their lights off at night,” he explained. “They would enforce the Move Over Law.”

Georgia’s Move Over Law is simple: move one lane over from first responders or, if traffic does not allow that, slow below the speed limit.

“[Enforcement is] what needs to happen,” Martz campaigned. “A total blitz of enforcement of the Move Over Law. Nothing is going to happen until the police start to actually enforce that law. No more warnings and educating motorists. It’s ticket time. For CMV drivers, the fine should triple.”

Considering Martz operates a commercial wrecker, he is qualified to make such a statement.

Martz’s stance is similar to what I hear from many readers of this column: why aren’t the laws better enforced?

There are many reasons, not the least of which is staffing. But also, remember, there are just way more offenders than enforcers. Exponentially. And Move Over Law violations usually occur while the nearest officer is busy handling a particular scene. They cannot reasonably drop their crash cleanup to go chase a reckless driver. And by the time they call for another unit to help, the offending driver is far from the scene.

Robert Hydrick from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety distilled this concisely. He said when drivers approach flashing lights ahead, they need to slow down and assess the situation. Doing so, he said, prevents them from “needlessly putting the responders in danger.”

And Hyrdrick recommended a simple axiom from the defensive driving ethos: do not be surprised by flashing lights. Cars break down, wrecks happen, and road work is everywhere. “Instead of being surprised by it, be looking for it,” Hydrick advised.

Back to Frank Ingram - he flirted with danger as a hobby. Following in his late father Bill’s footsteps, Ingram raced dirt late models at Woodstock’s Dixie Speedway and all over the southeast. He won a championship in his division at Dixie in 2010 and numerous other races. While drivers do get hurt in motorsports, they often race around each other with that danger in mind. They, also, are encased in steel roll cages, fire suits, belts, seats, and helmets.

Ingram the Wrecker Driver had nothing between himself and the passing, errant driver, whom Woodstock PD says remained on scene and has been cooperative. Ingram’s black flag came before his checkered flag.

Tragically, Martz feels that there is plenty of obliviousness to go around. “Nobody cares and that’s sad. But, I guess it is what it is.”

Hydrick offers a ray of optimism after something bleak: all humans make mistakes. But if drivers minimize distractions and take note of the flashing lights ahead of them, “If a mistake happens, the hope is that people can still avoid those on the side of the road.”


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