AAA: Oklahoma drivers do not fully grasp danger to roadside workers

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The American Automobile Association (AAA) (Getty Images)

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – AAA officials are asking Oklahoma drivers to be more mindful of roadside workers by slowing down and moving over.

The request comes after two AAA roadside technicians and an Oklahoma tow truck driver were killed in the past three months.

Recently-released AAA research shows that Oklahoma drivers often do not fully grasp the danger they pose to roadside workers, according to AAA officials.

“The deaths of two AAA drivers killed this year along with dozens of other first responders – one in Oklahoma – working at the roadside makes this finding particularly alarming,” AAA officials said.

A first responder is killed while working roadside, on average, every other week, somewhere in the United States, according to AAA.

Fourteen tow providers have died this year, as of August, while providing roadside assistance. An average of 24 emergency responders, including tow providers, are killed by vehicles while giving roadside help to motorists each year.

“As drivers, we all share responsibility for keeping roadside workers safe. By paying attention, slowing down and moving over, away from the side of the road where work is taking place, we allow those working to do so without risk,” says Tom Wiedemann, President and CEO, AAA Club Alliance. “AAA is committed to raising awareness around this critical issue that continues to tragically claim the lives of first responders and disabled motorists.”

AAA officials ask motorists to do the following while driving to protect people on roadsides:

  • Remain alert, avoid distractions and focus on the task of driving.
  • Keep an eye out for situations where emergency vehicles, tow trucks, utility service vehicles or disabled vehicles are stopped on the side of the road.
  • When you see these situations, slow down and if possible move one lane over and away from the people and vehicles stopped at the side of the road.

Slow Down, Move Over laws were passed in all 50 states across the nation, as well as the District of Columbia, to protect roadside workers.

Oklahoma’s Move Over Law (47-11-314, page 391) requires all drivers to reduce speed and move over one lane is safe to do so when approaching any emergency vehicle, tow truck, municipal vehicle or road maintenance vehicle with flashing lights – or any disabled motorist – traveling slowly or stopped along the shoulder or roadside,” AAA officials said.

(Getty Images)

However, a new AAA poll shows that one-third (31 percent) of Oklahomans said they were unsure about the Move Over law or thought there was no Move Over law.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety researchers obtained the following information about drivers who do not comply with the Move Over laws at all times:

  • 42% thought this behavior was somewhat or not dangerous at all to roadside emergency workers. This demonstrates that drivers may not realize how risky it is for those working or stranded along highways and roads closed to moving traffic.
  • Nearly a quarter of those surveyed (23%) are unaware of the Move Over law in the state where they live.
  • Among those who are aware of their state’s Move Over laws, about 15% report not understanding the potential consequences for violating the Move Over law at all.

AAA officials also ask drivers to slow down and move over for motorists on roadsides with disabled vehicles.

More than 1,600 people, since 2015, have been struck and killed while outside of a disabled vehicle.

“This is not just about a law. This is about drivers paying attention and looking out for others because it is literally a matter of life and death,” says AAA fleet manager Jason Cravens. “Don’t just slow down to look. Slow down and move over.”

Drivers are increasingly distracted while driving, according to AAA Foundation research, which shows that drivers are up to four times as likely to crash if they are talking on a cell phone while driving and up to eight times as likely to crash if texting. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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