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Tow-truck drivers at risk, motorists reminded

CAA driver Jeff Laufer shows his shattered window and injured hand from when a passing truck clipped his vehicle.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

CAA driver Jeff Laufer shows his shattered window and injured hand from when a passing truck clipped his vehicle.

JEFF Laufer "couldn't count" the number of close calls he's had on the road in his 12 years driving a tow truck.

His most recent scare came Monday morning after the CAA Manitoba driver had just dropped a member off at his home on Sherbrook Street near Cumberland Avenue. His beacons were on and he was parked up against the curb, when -- in the blink of an eye -- he nearly lost an arm.

"I had my arm hanging out the window, looking at my computer screen," he said Tuesday morning. "I just told dispatch that I was coming back to the shop to change my coveralls because the ones I had on were ripped. As I did that, a truck came by and brushed my arm and clipped the mirror on my truck."

The mirror shattered, and Laufer had to go to the hospital to treat a few cuts. He says his arm is still a little swollen from the near-miss.

Earlier this year, Laufer was pulling a car out of the snow near an embankment on Pembina Highway when another vehicle came barrelling around the corner and crashed into the centre divider 45 metres away from where he was working.

That incident could have turned out even worse.

Dangerous moments such as these prompted CAA Manitoba to issue another reminder motorists are legally required to slow down and move over when passing tow trucks and other emergency vehicles working on the side of the road.

"Anecdotally, we're pretty much hearing from our drivers every day," offered CAA Manitoba spokeswoman Liz Peters. "There have been times where people have had to file police reports, make insurance claims or go to the emergency room, like Jeff did (Monday).

"We've probably seen five or six (serious) incidents this winter."

Peters said coming amendments to the Highway Traffic Act adding maximum speed limits when passing tow trucks and emergency vehicles will help increase safety. The changes include a speed limit of 40 km/h when passing emergency vehicles in regular zones marked 79 km/h or less; 46 km/h when the speed is regularly 80 km/h or more.

"Our drivers are well-trained and are prepared for these types of scary incidents," said Peters, who added all CAA Manitoba operators undergo regular safety training and workplace protocols.

 

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

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