Tow truck rally promotes highway safety message

Tow trucks and fire trucks pull out of the weigh scales east of Langham onto Highway 16 at sundown on Thursday, March 7

“Slow down and move over” when passing emergency vehicles on the highway.

The extra 30 seconds could save a life.

About two dozen tow truck drivers, along with firefighters from Dalmeny, Borden and Radisson, put that message front and centre on Highway 16 at sunset on Thursday, March 7.

With amber, blue and red lights flashing, the convoy of emergency vehicles made an impressive display near the weigh scales east of Langham.

The rally marked the third year in a row that tow truck drivers and firefighters have gathered at this location to draw attention to the need for safety at accident scenes on highways.

The first rally in March 2017 was held a few days after Courtney Shaefer, a tow truck driver who was helping a stranded driver, was killed in a four-vehicle crash during a blizzard near Esterhazy.

Tow trucks line up at the weigh scale parking lot prior to the convoy heading out onto Highway 16

Rally organizer Brad Warriner, a tow truck driver who works out of Saskatoon, said the annual rallies are important, because the message of “slow down and move over” has to be constantly reinforced.

“We’re going to be out here every year,” said Warriner in an interview as the trucks gathered for the rally at the weigh station parking lot. “We have to make sure the awareness is there.

“We still run into the problem of people not slowing down on the highway when they see emergency vehicles, and that does cause big problems for the people who are just out there doing their job and who want to return home safe to their families at the end of the day.

“It’s not just tow truck drivers,” he added. “We’re the ones that seem to get ignored the most, but really it’s all emergency vehicles.

“When accidents happen, the police, firefighters and EMS personnel are first on the scene. That’s why we like to involve them as well in these safety rallies.”

Warriner said the introduction of blue lights on tow trucks in 2017 has helped increase awareness among drivers, but close calls still happen all the time.

Firefighters from Dalmeny, Borden and Radisson take part in the tow truck safety rally

“Even when drivers slow down, there’s lots of times when they come awful close to the tow truck. That’s why we emphasize the ‘move over’ aspect; because even at 60 kilometers an hour, when a vehicle is that close, it’s still pretty dangerous. A little extra room just makes it a much safer work area for us.”

Warriner said the same message applies during construction season when passing highway workers.

“Always slow to 60 kilometers an hour for flag persons and construction crews,” said Warriner.

He said while the numbers at the annual rallies may vary, but there are more of them happening across Saskatchewan every year. They are also catching on in neighbouring provinces, and public awareness of the issue is growing.

“The first year we held a rally, we had a huge turnout,” said Warriner. “We invited everyone. But there were only a couple rallies that year.

Tow trucks pull out in a convoy onto Highway 16 near Langham on Thursday, March 7

“Now there are at least nine rallies tonight across the province, so that shows how important our message is.”