MARYSVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) — Move over: it’s the law for police and ambulances, but it also applies to all first responders.
In the first two weeks of this year, seven U.S. tow truck drivers died after being struck roads. If you don’t think it can happen here, a Perry County tow truck company says think again.
Dewey Lehman of Lehman’s Towing Company was helping police with a disabled vehicle in the median of Interstate 81 near Mechanicsburg when a tractor-trailer passed by too closely for anyone’s comfort.
“It just happened so fast. I mean, after the fact there was a lot of thinking,” Lehman said.
His first thought? “How am I still alive?”
A tractor-trailer failed to move over, striking and totaling his tow truck and a customer’s car he was hauling for an unrelated job.
“If someone would have been on the passenger side of this truck, you know, loading something up on the highway when that happened, they would have been killed,” said Dillon Lehman, Dewey’s son and a tow truck driver.
“That’s my livelihood there sitting, and who knows how long it will be until they replace it,” Dewey Lehman said.
The trucks are replaceable but their lives are quite literally on the line.
“When you got all that air in them cars coming towards you, sometimes you’ll look up and you’ll see one coming over that white line, and you gotta dodge out around it,” Dillon Lehman said.
It’s a problem the Lehmans say has gotten worse over the past 10 years.
“Now it’s out of control. People just need to pay attention. I don’t get it,” Dewey Lehman said
“I’ve had a couple close calls myself. I wonder to myself every day, why am I still doing this for a living,” Dillon Lehman said.
Friday’s crash wasn’t the company’s first brush with death or likely its last.
“We had another one in Carlisle a year and a half ago. A guy came across the lanes of traffic and took the entire driver’s side of the truck off,” Dillon Lehman said.
The Lehmans are part of the growing voice of tow truck drivers pleading with people to slow down.
“Especially the people that get killed in this profession. Instead of slapping them on the wrist, they need to make the laws stiffer,” Dewey Lehman said.
In Pennsylvania, the first fine for not moving over is up to $250 and a 90-day license suspension if a first-responder gets hurt. For the Lehmans, no punishment could change the unthinkable.
“They can get to go home with their families, so I’d like it to be the same for us,” Dillon Lehman said.