Tow truck operators reminding drivers to 'move over,' it's the law

SYRACUSE (WSYR-TV) - New York state’s “move over law” was recently expanded to include sanitation trucks, which means you could be ticketed and fined for failing to move over or slow down when passing these vehicles.

The requires drivers to move over or slow down for police, fire and EMS vehicles, and also tow trucks when pulled to the side of the road with flashing lights.

Late Tuesday night a driver in Victor, N.Y., failing to obey this law hit a tow truck operator while he was helping another driver alongside the road. The accident sent four people to the hospital.

In Syracuse, it only took one call with a AAA tow operator to see just how dangerous the job can be.

“There’s another car trying to get in this lane where we’re trying load up,” said Christopher Merrill, a tow operator with AAA. “They have that whole lane open, they could have stayed over there to get around us.”

Merrill says it should common sense for drivers to move over or slow down when they see a vehicle with flashing lights on the side of the road, but he says that many drivers he sees up close passing by are distracted on their cell phones.

“If you take a quick glance over, they’re usually messing with their phone, Merrill said. “That’s 90 percent of the problem that people don’t get over.”

Merrill, who’s been on the job for 17 years, has been on some close calls himself.
When a call doesn’t require police on scene, Merrill knows he is the only one watching his back.

“Someone probably wasn’t paying attention and got pretty close to the side of the truck where I had to actually jump on the bed of the truck to get out of the way,” Merrill described. “It’s definitely scary. You definitely want to be on your game and paying attention when you’re up there.”

He says it only takes a few seconds when his eyes are off the road for something to go wrong.

“You don’t want to be looking away from traffic for more than a couple of seconds especially if it’s 5 o’clock,” Merrill said. “It only takes that one or two seconds for someone to come up and run you over or hit that car behind you. So you want to get down there, hook up and get back up and check traffic.”

If you’re caught breaking the “move over law” – you could face a fine of up to $400 and three points on your license.

“Whether it’s that they don’t know the law or they don’t have common courtesy for a human-being being on the side of the road trying to help somebody. Whether it’s us, police or ambulance, fire, any of them,” Merrill said. “If you see lights – if you can get over, get over.”

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