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In wake of highway death, tow truck operators criticize ‘move over’ law (HI)

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News Video is within Resource Link below:

 

MILILANI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The tow truck driver and father fatally struck early Thursday by a woman accused of driving drunk has thrown the tight-knit community of tow truck operators into mourning ― and raised new questions about a law that was meant to make the job safer.

 

Aaron Malama was hit early Thursday after being struck while trying to hook up a stalled vehicle on the H-2 Freeway in Mililani. He was initially taken in critical condition to a hospital.

 

“My friend called me this morning and they told me that Aaron got hit. They thought he was still alive," said his former coworker Avery Axtell. "He passed away at the hospital.”

 

Tow truck operator Austin Kanamu responded to the scene.

 

“It’s a very eerie feeling seeing the damage of the car and knowing what happened to somebody that you know," said Kanamu.

 

Police said the crash happened about 1 a.m. when a driver was heading northbound on the freeway in Mililani when she veered out of her lane and plowed into the tow truck driver and a second man.

 

The second victim, a 49-year-old man, was taken to a hospital in serious condition.

 

Police arrested the 47-year-old driver ― Edrina Rapis ― on suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant and two counts of first-degree negligent injury.

 

Rapis had been convicted of DUI after an accident in 2004 and lost her license for one year.

 

Investigators believe alcohol is also a contributing factor in Thursday’s crash, and they’re still looking at whether speed or drugs were involved.

 

Rapis was released pending further investigation.

 

Malama’s death is raising new questions about the dangers tow truck drivers face on the job.

 

Hawaii became the 50th and final state to enact the “Move Over” law in 2012, aimed to protect those working on the side of the road.

 

Kanamu said the law is constantly ignored and almost impossible to enforce, leaving them in danger.

 

“Every time one of us goes out on a call on the freeway, you’re lucky if you get one car that moves over,"

 

Kanamu said. "It’s a scary experience feeling a car or a semi pass you at 60, 65.”

 

Failure to comply with the “Move Over” law may result in up to a $1,000 fine.

 

Malama’s friends want tougher punishments.

 

“Especially drinking and driving. We’re picking up the accidents from drinking and driving,” said Axtell. “We’re just trying to get home to our families.”

 

“All it takes is one person to mess that all up and now we don’t have a friend,” added another former coworker, Ronald Ilae III. “I really wish I could have been there. At least watching his back or something.”

 

His friends say Malama leaves behind his parents, his girlfriend and his son.

 

RESOURCE LINK with video

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Christine and I send our prayers of support to Aaron's family, the company he worked for, and Honolulu's towing community. You can see that Aaron was very well liked and he will be missed. Hawaii's Move-Over Law goes back to 2012, but the way I read the section regarding "authorized enmergency vehicles", there's NO mention that tow trucks are authorized emergency vehicles. Can anyone from Hawaii provide clarification here? To me, the argument comes from the lack of specific mention of tow truck that are parked stationary with there emergency amber lights on. That being the case, Aaron's death is another example of the Move-Over Law NOT WORKING. 

 

I don't know of the investigative details as to where Aaron was standing when he was struck, but, his passing only confirms the solid reminder that working the white-line side is a dangerous place to be. And, where the news caster mentioned at :32 seconds in ... "(the law) is almost impossible to enforce." I disagree because the law enforcement community rarely takes the time to write SDMO citations. When a concerned officer is able to write a SDMO citation in 10-minutes time, consider how many more citations could be written if the focus was to enforce repeated violators? Those citations, if there was concentrated effort to do so, would send a powerful message to the motoring public, especially when mentioned or viewed on the local 5 o'clock news. Accordingly, an increase in SDMO citations produces the affordability to hire more officers that lends additional strength and personnel to enforce SDMO through federal grants. There's a process to it all, but we tower's have no choice as to how SDMO laws are enforced. Even if the towing industry wasn't the main focus, wouldn't you think that SDMO enforcement is in the best interest of their own officers? I speak from experience to know what, "special traffic enforcement", is when it comes to approaching a vehicle code problem. I also know the excuses some officer's make when they haven't written a hazardous cite for weeks and months. To that I say, "A cop with a sharp-pencil and the drive for enforcing SDMO could make a difference, albiet a drop in the bucket.     R. 


Randall C. Resch

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Randall, I need clarification as well to the current status of Hawaii's SDMO law. However, If I am not mistaken did hear in a News Reports that Tow Trucks were just added in the past year. With that said, I could never be convinced that any such SDMO Laws would ever have an effect on the manner a distracted or under the influence driver is operating the vehicle.

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Hi Ron ... from my understanding and from reading on ResponderSafety.com from the past, it's my understanding that SDMO was signed into Hawaii law in 2012 by (then) Governor Abercrombie. There was a slight revision in 2013, but the original law was 2012. If there are other after revisions, I haven't seen them, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

 

News Link:  https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/18990159/abercrombie-signs-move-over-bill/

 

Video:  http://honolulupd.org/news/index.php?page=main&story=471

 

No law ... slow-down or otherwise, will have an affect on distracted, DUI or marijuana induced diving behaviors. A reset in tow operator safety culture is necessary especially for any tower who thinks they could never fall victim to a wayward motorist.     R.


Randall C. Resch

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