MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Police and a local company are reminding drivers to steer clear of tow truck operators working along the highway.
Tow truck drivers last year were added to Pennsylvania’s “steer clear” law, which means drivers must move over – or at the very least slow down – when a tow truck is on the side of the road. PennDOT says the law is to keep drivers safe.
Heidi Richcreek is always thinking about the safety of her drivers at HJ Towing.
“The last thing we say to them: be safe,” Richcreek said.
Those are the last words she spoke to Andy Smith before he was hit by a tractor-trailer in January of 2012. Smith was towing a car on Route 581 in Lemoyne. He was 23 years old.
“It did hit home because he was so young,” Richcreek said, “as well as knowing that he had a young son.”
Almost five years later, 7-year-old Chandler Smith and mom Jessica Kett leaf through pictures in Chandler’s “Daddy’s book.”
“I have this picture in a frame,” Chandler said. “I was 2 years old when that happened.”
“If people knew about that law and he didn’t pass, our lives would be very, very different,” Kett said.
That’s the case for dozens of tow truck drivers a year who die on the job. But police officers tell us they give out very few tickets for it because they are usually on the scene of a tow.
“That puts our officer in the position to either leave that scene, leave the officer unprotected to go chase down a violator, so the enforcement there becomes a problem,” Hampden Township police Chief Steven Junkin said.
Officers, with the help of banners printed on the sides of HJ Towing trucks, remind drivers to steer clear in memory of Andy.
“My fear is having somebody else hit,” Richcreek said.
If you do not move over or slow down for a tow truck, you could face a fine up to $250. If someone is injured or killed, fines and penalties could be much higher.