The Saskatchewan government today introduced and passed legislation improving safety for tow truck operators. The Traffic Safety (Tow Trucks) Amendment Act, 2017 permits blue lights to be used in conjunction with amber lights on tow trucks.
The legislation was introduced and passed in one day, which is a rare occurrence and requires the unanimous support of the Legislature. The move comes after tow truck operator Courtney Schaefer was killed March 7, 2017, in a collision along the roadside near the Gerald area during blizzard conditions.
Tow truck drivers lobbied for the change.
“We’ve heard from tow truck operators about how they risk their lives daily while they assist motorists in distress,” Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) Joe Hargrave said. “Adding blue lights will increase visibility, heighten awareness as well as increase safety for all operators and the public.”
Saskatchewan is the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce a two-colour lighting combination for tow trucks - other jurisdictions use amber lights only. The addition of blue lights isn’t mandatory - Saskatchewan operators can still opt for amber only. Tow truck operators can also strategically install additional lights to the tow truck and trailer providing there is at least one amber light on top of the truck that can be seen 360 degrees around the unit.
“This is a move in the right direction and a first for the safety of the tow truck operators in Canada,” Roadside Responders Association of Saskatchewan Vice President Harv Britton said. “Every day, our operators experience near misses. We’ve been clipped by vehicle mirrors as they whiz past us. Pylons outlining our safety zone at roadside have been run over. People just don’t seem to see the flashing amber lights; adding the blue will make us more noticeable and help keep operators safe.”
Tow truck operators will be able to install blue lights once the bill receives royal assent and is proclaimed, which will happen at the end of May. SGI will be undertaking public awareness efforts to educate the public about blue lights on tow trucks.
“We also remind motorists it’s the law to slow to 60 kilometres per hour when passing tow trucks and any emergency vehicles on the highway when flashing lights are engaged – those responders have families they want to get home safely to as well,” Hargrave said. “If you are going even 10 km/hr over that limit, it will cost you $210. So obey the law, and slow down. It could save a life.”