Roadside Assistance Workers Face Deadly Dangers, New Study Shows

Roadside assistance workers are the unsung heroes of the highway, providing vital services to drivers in need. But their job comes with a high risk of being killed or injured by passing vehicles, according to a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The Hidden Toll of Roadside Crashes

The study, which examined the characteristics and causes of fatal roadside worker crashes from 2015 to 2021, revealed a disturbing picture of the dangers faced by those working on the side of the road. The researchers found that 123 roadside assistance providers were fatally struck by passing vehicles during this period, a figure that is nearly four times more than the official estimates from national crash data.

The discrepancy is due to the fact that many state police crash report forms do not capture the occupation of the victims, and often classify them as “pedestrians”. This means that the true extent of the problem is underreported and overlooked by policymakers and the public.

Roadside Assistance

The study also found that the number of roadside worker fatalities increased significantly over the study period, outpacing the overall increase in traffic deaths. The majority of the crashes occurred on interstate highways, where vehicles travel at high speeds and have less time to react to roadside incidents. The most common factors contributing to these crashes were speeding, impairment, and distraction of the drivers who struck the workers.

The Need for Greater Awareness and Action

The study highlights the urgent need for more awareness and action to protect the lives of roadside assistance workers, who often put themselves in harm’s way to help others. The researchers recommend several measures to address the issue, such as:

  • Reinforcing the slow down, move over laws, which require drivers to reduce their speed and change lanes when they see anyone working on the side of the road. These laws exist in all 50 states, but many drivers are unaware of them or fail to comply with them.
  • Implementing countermeasures to prevent vehicles from striking workers, such as vehicle-mounted electronic signs, cones, flares, and barriers. These devices can alert drivers to slow down and move over, and create a buffer zone between the workers and the traffic.
  • Providing training for roadside workers to prioritize their safety and equip them with strategies to avoid danger. The training should emphasize the importance of not working or standing on the traffic-facing side of the incident whenever possible, and minimizing the time spent on the scene.

“Let’s remember this study is about real people, not statistics,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s traffic safety and advocacy director. “It’s a shared responsibility to solve this safety challenge. Roadside workers and all of us who drive by them have to take action to move towards zero traffic deaths.”

How You Can Help

As a driver, you can do your part to help save the lives of roadside assistance workers by following these simple tips:

  • Be alert and attentive when you are behind the wheel. Avoid any distractions, such as texting, eating, or adjusting the radio, that could take your eyes off the road.
  • Slow down and move over when you see flashing lights, cones, or signs on the side of the road. Give enough space to the workers and their vehicles, and follow their directions if they signal you to do so.
  • Be patient and courteous. Remember that roadside workers are there to help you and other drivers, and they deserve your respect and gratitude.

By following these tips, you can make the road a safer place for everyone, and show your appreciation for the highway heroes who risk their lives every day to help others.

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