A tragic collision along Highway 16 is highlighting just how dangerous it is for workers or good samaritans to be pulled over on the side of the road while they’re helping someone.
While he was changing a tire on Friday, RCMP say 22-year-old Tanner Graf from Lloydminster died after a semi hit and killed him. He was said to have worked at a tire shop in the Border City.
The side of the road might as well be the office for tow truck drivers like Jay Bernat, who’s worked for Provincial Club Towing in Regina for the past 15 years.
“There isn’t a tow truck driver out there that can’t give you a story of a near miss and that’s the scary fact,” he revealed.
Bernat admitted that people don’t slow down. He can’t understand why they don’t brake when they see tow trucks with their lights flashing pulled over doing their job. He guessed that out of 50 vehicles that pass him on the highway, only about five per cent will actually slow down.
“It’s scary out there. You just never know when it’s gonna be your time to get hit,” he said. “People are in a hurry to get nowhere.”
Recalling some of his most nerve-racking experiences, Bernat explained how he’s had semis jackknife beside him. One time he got pinned between his truck and a semi trailer where he could almost feel the trailer itself on the back of his jacket.
He also remembered one time when two large trucks came barrelling down beside him. One truck ended up partially in the ditch while the other truck somehow squeezed through, but not without leaving Bernat ducking for cover.
“I jumped in the ditch to avoid it.”
CAA Saskatchewan’s Christine Niemcyzk outlined how several drivers in that organization have had near misses too. Tow trucks and other vehicles have been damaged. Thankfully, no one has been hurt recently.
“Our operators and our staff who are doing roadside assistance are always in jeopardy,” she said.
Niemcyzk said CAA pushed hard to get tow trucks included in the law that states drivers must slow down to 60 km/h when they see emergency vehicles pulled over on the side of the road with their lights on.
Even even though it’s the law, Bernat believes it’s a hard to enforce. He thinks the best way to get drivers to ease up on the gas pedal is to educate through public awareness.
“It’s out of my control. It’s the people out there that are causing the risk. You’re not just putting us at risk, you’re putting yourself at risk.”