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'We risk our lives daily:'

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Tow truck drivers urge people to follow the Move Over Law

 

 

Statistics by the CDC show it's one of the most deadly jobs in the country-- with 191 tow truck drivers nationwide being killed in the span of five years.

 

Thousands of us drive past it every day. Rogelio Perez-Borroto's memorial on I-275 north is a reminder to move over and slow down.

 

“He was off helping somebody who broke down on the bridge. On his way home from work, he lost his life,” fellow tow truck driver Mike McDonald said.

 

McDonald says sadly Rogelio isn't the only one. Tow truck drivers risk their lives daily.

 

“Last year there was 56 operators that died in 2019. That's every six days an operator loses their life helping somebody to make sure they get home,” McDonald said.

 

That's why FDOT enforces the Move Over Law. January is the “Move Over Month.” Drivers have to move over if they see flashing lights on the side of the road.

 

“I mean if you can't move over, they say you're supposed to slow down at least 20 miles under the posted speed limit,” McDonald said.

 

Every time McDonald goes out for a call, he knows he could possibly lose his life. We waited with him and after just a few minutes in, not one car moved over and none slowed down.

 

“I would say 90-percent of them don't. A lot of them don't. They’re just not paying attention and wanting to get home thinking that it's not a big deal, but it actually is,” McDonald said.

 

Statistics by the CDC show it's one of the most deadly jobs in the country with 191 tow truck drivers nationwide being killed in the span of five years. 

 

“We've been calculating, so far in 2020 five operators have lost their life within the past 10 days. I mean within the first four hours of 2020, two operators lost their lives,” McDonald said.

 

At the end of the day, McDonald said he just wants drivers to be vigilant so he can go home to his five kids at the end of the night. 

 

“My wife is always concerned if I'm going to come home. She calls me 5-6 times a day just to make sure. It would be heartbreaking because my kids are my world. It would be heartbreaking for them, not knowing they don't have a dad,” McDonald said.

 

Troopers issued more than 20,000 citations for people who broke the law in 2019. That’s how big the problem is. Again, this can all be avoided if you move over.

 

RESOURCE LINK with video

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In this news video, Michael McDonald is a great representative for our industry ... smart, well-spoken, detailed and uniformed ... well done. But, look at the news video to see that the tow truck, although the over-head emergency lights are activated, the tow truck is parked in a live traffic-lane with no cones, flares, signs, or blocker trucks being part of that scenario. If a vehicle were to plow the parked tow truck, the violating motorist would have a solid defense in-which they would argue fault on the tower's part. I dislike these kinds of videos because they send the wrong message. I like the intent of the video, but there's a better message that focused training needs to be repeated all the time. SDMO laws are only one component of tow operator survival.     

 

Note:  It was also reported that, although Mr. Perez-Borotto was standing inside the white-line of the shoulder, he was struck while working the white-line. The suspect, Allison Huffman, the DUI motorist who killed Mr. Perez-Borrotto reportedly had an extensive criminal driving history.

 

   4/2002: DUI w/ injury or property damage (TPD)

    7/2002: DUI w/ suspended license (TPD)

    1/2003: Completed DUI school

    1/2008: Violation of probation for DUI (Pinellas Co.)

    7/2010: DUI w/ refusal to submit testing (TPD)

    12/2011: Completed DUI school a second time

    5/2013: Completed substance abuse treatment

    11/2013: Careless driving (Charlotte Co.)*

(*Careless driving was a citation. All others were arrests.) At least she was sentenced for 28-years for her actions. Not that that makes anything better, Mr. Perez-Borotto lost his life needlessly trying to help another. 

 

When there are menaces like Huffman on the world's highways, tow men and tow woman won't EVER have a chance regardless as to the presence of any SDMO lawThe hard-hitting reality demands that we towers are vigilent to our own personal safety, especially when the is no presence of the highway patrol to assist.     R


Randall C. Resch

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Randy, two attributes of your response stick out. 

 

One: Move over laws are just one component to operator safety.

 

The slow down move over law does little to nothing to protect you. It is a penny piece of paper with a pennies worth of ink. Most people do not even know it exists! And it will not do anything to protect you from an impaired driver. 

 

Two: The hard hitting reality demands that we towers are vigilant to our own personal safety. 

 

I have to ask, when was the last time that you, as a professional driver/operator refused service to a client due to scene being unsafe? You just looked at it from a distance and said "hell no, I aint dying for Geico!" You may have changed your strategy, but you made a conscious decision to abort the mission.

 

I had an incident a months ago where I requested that a State Trooper temporarilygive me another lane. He flatly refused. I proceeded to load up my equipment. As I was walking to the cab he approached me and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was leaving get someone else. I further informed him that I was not asking him for a lane, I was telling him that I needed a lane to safely do my job. It got pretty heated. I left the scene. The result was that we had a meeting with the supervisors and got things ironed out. 

 

When you are on a scene, you control and dictate the scene. Law enforcement, after they have done their measurements and inventories of property surrender the scene to you. They are then your supporting cast. They do not tell you how to do your job. And if they are not willing to do all humanly possible to ensure that, you need to do what you need to do to survive another day.

 

 

Edited by goodmichael

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Hey GM ... may I ask, "What was ironed out with the supervisors?" What was solved with you walking off the scene? Could that have been solved any other way by providing an explaination of what your recovery plan was, or, offering other recovery options? I'm not trying to impugn your actions, rather looking to learn better ways to react to an over-controling officer. In all respect, walking off the job isn't a respectful or professional manner. Better to have that sit down at a later-date so the emotion isn't present. In that and thinking back in retrospect, I know that with your industry experience, abilities and recovery knowledge, could you have completed the recovery without the extra lane? Again no malice towards you ... could that interaction have been handled differently by you? I have a qualifying example I'd like to share if you choose to respond OK? Thanks.    R.


Randall C. Resch

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There is obviously a high level of common sense, personal awareness and professionalisim that is required to deal with a particular officer who wants to be difficult or demanding on a scene. I personally have packed up and left quite a few scenes that were not ready to get handed over to me or had a lead officer there who wants to run the show. I have had a few meetings over the years with certain higher-ups and have usually always had positive results. we have numerous L.E. agencies in our area and to be honest, the one I dont do much work for anymore is the state police. And it is not because they dont call me. I just refuse to work with them.They ALL seem to have a chip on their shoulder and ALWAYS look and talk down on you like they are better. Between the county sheriff,  park police, city police and the numerous village police departments around here who treat us towers with respect and professionalisim and actually give the scene over to us and provide support and logistics as needed. Yes it can be painful to turn down a job, but in the long run it is worth it. bottom line is, I will do MY job as long as the officer allows me. I salute all tow operators who stand up for themselves and firmly yet politely explain to an officer that WE are the recovery professionals and will handle that phase of the incident and are willing to walk away from a scene that the officer wont release the scene to the professionals or demand unsafe actions.    


There are Tow Truck Drivers, Then There is Towing and Recovery operators...... Which one are you??🤨

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We actually sat down with the captain of the substation. I explained to him, as well as the sargeant, the scenario. I needed a lane closed to allow me to work, as I was on next to a guard rail. It was a rolled vehicle on its top. I did inform the trooper of my plan. He interupted and told me that there was absolutely no way I could have a lane. They offered the explanatory standpoint of secondary crashes, the early morning hour, just basically took the side of their colleague and justified his decision. We did concur that the temporary lane closure would have been the safest way to operate. 

 

I am not going to hyperextend my safety stance and work next to moving traffic. I had a similar situation a few months later, at the same spot, under similar circumstances and was granted my request for a temporary lane closure. I have invested heavily in snatch blocks, chained attached snatch blocks, rollover sticks machined from sticks of aluminum, the list goes on to allow me to work safely. All of those tools are just a box of crap if you do not speak up for oneself. 

 

I have always gone above and beyond to build that bridge with law enforcement. They do however not walk on water.  And they sometimes, though rare in occurrence,  forget that we are both on the same team, with a common goal. That goal, number one, being in a position to go home at the end of the day. Number two is that we clear the scene in as safe, and as expeditious manner possible. 

 

Too many in this line of work, I believe, confuse themselves with the role of a superhero, believing they can save the world. I am all for assisting and helping people out of a tight spot. But I have adopted the median point in my mindset that I did not break it, fail to maintain it to the point it failed catastrophically, or just plain drive it past the point that Duck tape. Gorilla tape, super glue, and a prayet to Saint Ephesius, patron Saint of idiots will keep it together.  I am not going to risk my life to rescue you from your stupidity.  

 

Edited by goodmichael

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20 minutes ago, goodmichael said:

We actually sat down with the captain of the substation. I explained to him, as well as the sargeant, the scenario. I needed a lane closed to allow me to work, as I was on next to a guard rail. It was a rolled vehicle on its top. I did inform the trooper of my plan. He interupted and told me that there was absolutely no way I could have a lane. They offered the explanatory standpoint of secondary crashes, the early morning hour, just basically took the side of their colleague and justified his decision. We did concur that the temporary lane closure would have been the safest way to operate. 

 

I am not going to hyperextend my safety stance and work next to moving traffic. I had a similar situation a few months later, at the same spot, under similar circumstances and was granted my request for a temporary lane closure. I have invested heavily in snatch blocks, chained attached snatch blocks, rollover sticks machined from sticks of aluminum, the list goes on to allow me to work safely. All of those tools are just a box of crap if you do not speak up for oneself. 

 

I have always gone above and beyond to build that bridge with law enforcement. They do however not walk on water.  And they sometimes, though rare in occurrence,  forget that we are both on the same team, with a common goal. That goal, number one, being in a position to go home at the end of the day. Number two is that we clear the scene in as safe, and as expeditious manner possible. 

 

Too many in this line of work, I believe, confuse themselves with the role of a superhero, believing they can save the world. I am all for assisting and helping people out of a tight spot. But I have adopted the median point in my mindset that I did not break it, fail to maintain it to the point it failed catastrophically, or just plain srive it past the point that Duck tape. Gorilla tape, super glue, and a prayet to Saint Ephesius, patron Saint of idiots will keep it together.  I am not going to risk my life to rescue you from your stupidity.  

 

Goodmichael, this situation disturbs me greatly. Not with you but rather with the lack of respect shown by law enforcement for your well being. How much longer would the highway been closed had something tragic happen and you were struck by a passing motorist?

 

In many states the fire and ems take the lanes as needed, in fact it is part of the NFPA standards for workplace safety! (NFPA 1500 9.4 blocking) So what this officer said, in not so many words, is as a tower you are less important than the responding fire and rescue personnel. I see why you were upset and walked away. I commend you and do not think it was unprofessional to refuse to place yourself in harms way if you, in your best professional judgement, determined it was unsafe to proceed without a lane closed. Obviously there is a risk to your relationship and possible contractual penalties for refusing a police call, but it is a better alternative than not being alive to serve another day.

 

It is crazy, and not picking on Randy but rather his home state of California, where the highway patrol has made national headlines in the past for arresting responding rescue personnel when they are simply following NFPA standards and Department procedure to secure their work area. Again, this needs to be addressed in a uniform manner nationwide to allow for towers to create a safe work zone with standard traffic control procedures to protect the other roadway users and provide proper advance warning.

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Thanks guys for these well explained situations. Your words provide me with necessary information that will allow me to write a letter to the IACP under close scrutiny of my brother (retired police chief). I'll get crackin' on that and will share it with you. Note: When difficult topics are discussed in a calm, reserved, well-spoken manner, much can be learned for the betterment of the industry. Also important are those negative interactions that should be brought to the tow bosses attention. Thanks again.    R

Edited by rreschran

Randall C. Resch

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