As tow truck driver Alan Johnson loaded a disabled vehicle onto his flatbed, he saw a speeding car coming down the north metro freeway ramp headed right for him. He hoped the driver would see him, and at the last second swerve left and avoid a collision.
The drunken driver plowed into Johnson’s truck. The impact sent him flying 10 feet into the ditch along Interstate 694 at Long Lake Road. He was knocked unconscious, suffered four broken ribs, and his right arm was broken in three places. Nearly a month after the April 13 crash, Johnson is still off the job. He begins physical therapy Friday.
Johnson said he has a message for all drivers: “Mainly, obey the law, move over and slow down. People working on the road have families they want to go home to. Just because you are in a hurry you put people’s lives at risk.”
AAA Minneapolis echoes Johnson’s plea, and this week posted a video on Facebook to remind motorists to observe Minnesota’s “Move Over” law. The law requires drivers who come upon stationary emergency vehicles with lights flashing — including towing and recovery vehicles and road maintenance equipment — to slow down and, if safe to do so, vacate the lane closest to them.
The video, which shows motorists whizzing within inches of tow truck drivers, has been watched more than 44,000 times and shared more than 800 times.
“We’re here to help you, please return the favor,” the video says.
AAA Minneapolis, which answers more than 108,000 roadside calls a year in Hennepin County, attached Go-Pro cameras to tow trucks to capture footage of drivers who disobey the law and the danger they pose to tow truck drivers rendering assistance on highway shoulders with little protection.
“This footage clearly shows that many drivers forget or don’t take it seriously,” said Seamus Dolan, a community services specialist at AAA Minneapolis. “AAA advocates for safety of all drivers, but these dangers especially hit home for us as they directly impact our drivers who are working every day to assist our members on the side of the road.”
Member Andrea Sonju didn’t need a video to appreciate how vulnerable tow drivers like Johnson are.
“I was so scared for my AAA guy,” she said. “I was on a bridge on 494 by [the] airport. I couldn’t believe not everyone moved over, I couldn’t believe he didn’t get hit by a car.”
Johnson said he hopes to return to his job at Hwy. 10 Towing in Coon Rapids where he has worked off and on for the past 10 years. But after being hit he knows life won’t be the same.
“I will never have full motion of my arm and will have pain forever,” he said. “I love this job. I won’t let this scare me.”