Give tow trucks and their operators room to work safely and effectively (photo: Paul Swanson)

This Winter, Steer Clear of Tow Trucks

By AMA Staff

One winter day, Calgary tow operator Nick Harper received a call for a broken-down vehicle in the right-hand lane of Stony Trail near Deerfoot Trail. The six-year veteran of AMA arrived on scene and marked the surrounding area with safety cones and flares—enough to be seen from a far distance.

“Shortly after lighting and placing my last flare between each pylon, I noticed a vehicle still in the right lane,” Harper says. He notes that’s usually not a concerning sight, as most people slow down or move over, as provincial law states. But this particular vehicle was speeding up to get in front of traffic in the left lane.

“When the vehicle got close enough for me to see the driver, I saw him looking over his shoulder, pushing over to the left lane too late,” he says. “As I ran for the ditch, the driver of the vehicle came barreling down my lane—running over the pylons and flares and narrowly missing hitting my truck at highway speed.” This is just one of the many scary situations tow operators face on a daily basis.

The rules of the road are clear: Motorists must slow to 60 kilometres per hour (or less if the posted limit is lower than 60) in the lane adjacent to a parked tow truck with lights flashing. If possible, drivers should also try to move to the far lane to give operators room to work safely.

But we can—and should—do more. If you see something on the side of the road—a tow truck, any other vehicle, a cyclist, pedestrian or something you can’t quite make out—immediately reduce your speed and safely move over as far as possible, preferably changing lanes.

Drivers who have a breakdown should also take a few precautions. Try to get your vehicle as far off the road as possible and turn on your four-way flashers. Then assess the safety of your situation—locate a spot where you’re least likely to be in harm’s way if another driver smashes into you.

Slow down. Move over. And give tow operators the room they need to work. Click here learn more.

Tow operator Nick Harper shares his tips about breakdowns:

• When you see flashing lights or a broken down vehicle ahead, move over a lane if it’s safe to do so.

• Pylons and other safety equipment are there to provide safety for everyone on or near the road.

• Be aware that roadside operators may be working in a traffic lane.

• Slow down and, in some cases, be prepared to stop without much warning.

• Remember there may be several people working at a scene. You might only see one, but there are often more operators there.

• We can each do our part to make the roadside a safe place to work. See how at