With a record number of drivers anticipated to hit the roads this weekend, AAA emphasizes the importance of looking out for and yielding to roadside workers. Over the past few years, two AAA tow drivers tragically lost their lives while on duty during the July 4th holiday, including a tow driver in Maryland last year. Sadly, their families are now without their loved ones this year. Motorists are being urged to comply with the Slow Down, Move Over law to ensure everyone’s safety and prevent further tragedies.
Last year, Maryland Fleet driver Anthony Okozi lost his life over the July 4th weekend in Prince George’s County, and the year before, another AAA driver was killed during the holiday weekend in Cincinnati. Both drivers were struck by vehicles while assisting stranded motorists along the roadside.
“Adhering to the Move Over law is crucial throughout the year, but over the July 4th holiday weekend, the message hits particularly close to home for us,” said Tom Wiedemann, Chief Executive Officer of AAA Club Alliance. “The lives of our Fleet drivers and all first responders depend on your actions when they are working on the roadside. Please give them the space they need to safely perform their jobs so that they can also celebrate the holidays with their families.”
The Move Over law mandates that motorists slow down and, when it is safe to do so, move over one lane away from tow providers, police, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel working on the roadside. Many states, including Maryland, have expanded their laws to encompass any vehicle on the side of the road with hazard lights activated.
Unfortunately, roadside fatalities are not uncommon. The latest data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that an average of 24 emergency responders die each year while working on the roadside, amounting to one death every 14 days. It’s not only emergency responders who are at risk; since 2016, over 1,700 individuals have been struck and killed while outside of a disabled vehicle.
“The safety of our Fleet drivers and other first responders is our top priority. Please, Slow Down, Move Over, and watch out for those who are always watching out for you,” urged Wiedemann.
On a national scale, AAA expects to assist over 393,000 Members during the 4th of July holiday, including more than 7,300 in Maryland and over 13,000 across Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
AAA offers the following tips to ensure the safety of everyone on the roadside:
- Stay alert, avoid distractions, and focus on the task of driving. Put down your phone.
- Be vigilant for situations where emergency vehicles, tow trucks, utility service vehicles, or disabled vehicles are stopped on the side of the road.
- When encountering such situations, slow down and, if possible, move one lane over and away from the individuals and vehicles stopped on the roadside.
To raise awareness, AAA Retail locations will prominently display ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ signage in their stores and AAA TripTik printouts to educate motorists as they embark on their journeys during this busy summer travel period. Many AAA Roadside Assistance vehicles are equipped with ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ messaging or signs to alert motorists to change lanes and provide space for roadside workers.
As the roads become increasingly congested this holiday weekend, drivers must prioritize safety and exercise caution when encountering roadside workers. By obeying the Move Over law and remaining attentive, motorists can help prevent accidents and ensure a joyous and accident-free celebration for everyone.