Calls for changes to ‘Steer Clear Law’ after tow truck driver’s death

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JONESTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) — A young tow trucker’s death is serving as a reminder of the importance of following Pennsylvania’s “Steer Clear Law” so that other lives will be saved.

The law says if you see a vehicle with flashing lights on the side of the road, you need to either move over or if it’s not safe to do so, slow down.

Some are calling for stricter penalties to prevent another senseless death or injury.

27 emergency responders have died on U.S. roadways this year after being struck while on the job, including two in Pennsylvania.

It weighs heavy on the mind of Joe May’s Towing owner Michael Marks.

“For me to send my guys out there or myself to go out there, it’s a risk every single time and we all have families we want to get home to and it’s a really big deal. People need to slow down and move over,” Marks said.

Penalties increased in 2017. For the first violation, you can be fined up to $250, the second up to $500 and the third or subsequent violation up to $1,000.

After that, you could have your license suspended.

Violators who cause bodily injury or the death of an emergency service provider face additional fines of up to $10,000.

“I believe that it should be stricter punishments for the law. The simple fines that they’re getting for the move over isn’t really enough to make people want to do it,” Marks said.

“Last year just on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, over 1,800 motorists were cited,” said Todd Leiss, traffic incident management coordinator with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Leiss also helps lead PennTIME, the Pennsylvania Traffic Incident Management Enhancement group, to keep traffic moving and keep drivers and first responders safe.

“You need to remember that that person working on the side of the roadway may stumble, may fall, may go into the lane for some reason, so you want to be as far away from them as possible,” Leiss said.

Leiss says a simple name change could help with education. Instead of “Steer Clear,” calling it the “Move Over Law” to align with other states.

Marks also wants better visibility for tow trucks.

“I think with the towing apparatuses we should be able to run at least a red or a blue light on it,” Marks said. “People don’t yield to yellow and amber lights. I don’t know if it doesn’t stick out, if it doesn’t appeal to them.”

These are small changes that could have a big impact, but above all, these emergency responders just want to go home safely at the end of the day.

“We want everybody to be compliant. We want our responders to live,” Leiss said.

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