Letter-writing campaign aims to improve tow truck driver safety in Alberta

A Grande Prairie tow truck company has started a letter-writing campaign to Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason.

The campaign can be found on Harold’s Towing and Recovery’s website and is asking the minister to make changes to the Traffic Safety Act to improve safety for tow truck drivers while they’re on the job.

Devon Tretiak started the campaign and believes part of the problem is that drivers are complacent.

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“Because we run amber lights,” he explained. “Everyone from snow plows to construction crews, even some intersections, are just marked with an amber light.”

“There’s a lot of complacency because they don’t realize that it could be a tow truck driver,” Tretiak said.

That’s why one of the changes they’re asking for is to switch those amber lights to blue and white.

In 2017, Saskatchewan made the change to put blue lights on top of tow trucks and officials said they increase visibility from further distances on highways.

At the time, Mason was hesitant to confirm if blue lights would be the right colour to put on top of tow trucks, citing concerns people could get confused because police also have blue lights on top of their vehicles.

But Tretiak said the first step in improving driver safety is to change amber lights to blue.

“Throughout this campaign we’ve kind of evolved and set more goals and more definitive goals,” he said.

“First step is priority on those lights, and we also want better enforcement of the ‘slow down, move over.’”

Currently under the Traffic Safety Act, drivers are required to slow down to 60 km/h while passing a tow truck in an adjacent lane.

Tow truck driver safety was front of mind late in 2018, after three trucks were hit in early December and two drivers were struck.

One was a 21-year-old man was taken to hospital where he required surgery for his injuries.

Watch: Tow truck drivers are gearing up for rallies that will put a spotlight on the dangers they face daily on Saskatchewan roads. Nicole Stillger reports. (March 6, 2018)

Tretiak said he hasn’t heard anyone oppose the idea of making changes for driver safety, but they need more voices to make it happen.

“I don’t think that we’ve made a unified, concerted effort to get this done, prioritized and taken care of, which is part of what we’re doing.”

In a statement to Global News, Mason said:

“Our government has heard concerns about the visibility of tow trucks working on highways. There are protections for the operators of tow trucks, emergency vehicles and construction vehicles built into the Traffic Safety Act.

“Nevertheless, we are always willing to look at new methods to ensure first responders are able to work safely.

“Alberta Transportation is currently reviewing whether allowing blue lights on tow trucks would be an appropriate measure to take.

“Enhancing safety is our goal, and we are consulting with police services with regards to the use of blue flashing lights on non-police vehicles. Under the Traffic Safety Act, drivers are required to slow down to a maximum of 60 kms/h when passing a tow truck in the adjacent lane.”

– with files from Emily Mertz, Sarah Kraus and David Giles

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