During the early morning hours of January 4th, 2019, tow truck driver Keith Holt, 46, was struck and killed in a hit-and-run collision on the shoulder of I-20. He was assisting a woman with a stalled vehicle on the side of the highway, the standard procedure for tow truck drivers, when the white Nissan Altima swerved into the right lane shoulder. This workplace condition was common for Holt, and is a regular work environment for a tow truck operator; a job more dangerous than one might think.
Truck and sales drivers are ranked #7 on Time’s top ten list of most dangerous jobs in America. This study also reported that transportation accidents, such as towing, made up 40% of all 2016 workplace deaths, making it the leading cause of job fatalities in the United States. Additionally, the Texas Department of Transportation reports that CMV accidents (referring to motor vehicles of a certain weight used in transporting people or property) in Tarrant County is ranked #4 in the state. Fort Worth saw 24,786 total car accidents in 2016, with 88 of them being fatal. Considerably, these dangers also apply to non-transport or truck operating occupations on the road, such as state highway workers, EMTs, and police officers, whose work also places them in vulnerable situations.
Responding to the nature of these jobs, Texas passed the Move-Over Law in 2003 that ordered drivers to slow down, and move over if possible, when passing emergency vehicles with lights activated on the shoulder of the highway. However, this law hadn’t applied to a number of other roadside employees, such as state highway workers, until 8 years later when it was amended in 2011. This amendment was in part a response to several Texas Department of Transportation workers being injured or killed while working in and around Texas highways, two of them occurring in August and September of 2008.
State Senator Robert Nichols of Senate District 3 sponsored the amendment and acknowledged the dangers of roadside jobs, stating: “as a former Texas Department of Transportation Commissioner, I believe that safety should be a top priority. These men and women are at risk every time they put on their orange vests and work on our roads.” He continued on to say, “even one preventable death is too many. In my opinion, this legislation is past due and I look forward to seeing it passed into law.” Senate Bill 510 was passed into law with overwhelming support.
Every day drivers can make a difference in creating a safer environment for emergency vehicles, tow truck operators, and drivers. Titan Towing experienced an accident in May of 2018, in which no one was seriously hurt, when a tow truck operator was hit by a woman who was texting while driving on the highway. Many of these roadside accidents are caused by negligent driving, which can be prevented with a few simple measures like monitoring cell phone use while driving, paying attention to surroundings, and slowing down and moving over, if possible, when passing stopped vehicles to help make the folks Titan Towing and other roadside employees safer.