“Spirit Ride” Honors First Responder Roadside Deaths
Advocates want drivers to slow down or move over when they see first responders and tow truck drivers on scene
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — When you think of first responders, police, fire and EMS usually come to mind. Another group risking their lives is tow truck drivers working on highways.
A cross–country campaign called “Spirit Ride” is raising awareness as it passes through Detroit Lakes.
“We’re here to help the community, we’re not here to be in a [coffin] like that,” James Kohler of the Audubon Fire Department said.
A coffin that’s part of the Spirit Ride symbolizes all the tow truck drivers and first responders who have lost their lives on the job.
Advocates say on average, a tow truck driver dies every six days.
“Sometimes we’re just on the side of the road changing a tire and when you get vehicles whizzing by you at 70 miles an hour, and they’re just about knocking you off your feet, it can be a little scary at times,” Matt Hughes, the owner of Bad Boyz Towing, said.
Matt’s father says he worries when Matt goes out on the road.
“[I tell him to] keep your head on a swivel. It could be something as simple as changing a tire. You got to keep looking down the highway at what’s coming at you,” Tom Hughes said.
“They’re more focused on what we’re doing rather than them getting through the scene safely and making sure they don’t cause another accident,” Andy Castageri of the Detroit Lakes Fire Department said.
Organizers say if you see first responders working on the side of the road while you’re driving, you should either slow down or move over one lane.
That’s referred to as the “Slow Down, Move Over” law, which is in effect in all fifty states.
According to the National Safety Commission, nearly three–quarters of all Americans don’t know about that law.
“I’ve been kind of nervous to go out on the highways sometimes during blizzards and stuff like that. But I still got a job to do and I go out and do it anyway,” Matt said.
“I love my son, and I want to see him come back every night when he goes out to work,” Tom said.
The Spirit Ride started in April in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
It went on to Twin Valley after Detroit Lakes, and will continue covering the country over the next few months.