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A tow truck driver in Hawaii asks people to slow down and move

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Nationwide, a tow truck driver is killed along the highway every six days, according to AAA. Research shows that some drivers may not even grasp the danger they pose to those working or stranded on the side of highways and roads.

A tow truck operator in Hawaii reminds people to slow down and be careful.

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“Just because our amber lights aren’t blue or red, we would still want to be treated and recognized as an emergency response unit because we work there alongside police, fire, EMS to clear roads, just so you can get where you need to go,” said Mario Castillo, owner/operator of TRU2B’S TOWING SERVICES LLC.

Castillo, 38, has been an operator for half his life, starting at the tender age of 15. Over the years, he’s had a handful of run-ins in the towing industry.

“Lots of close calls, whether it’s being cut off with the side mirrors or having to dodge to not get hit because these pilots are flying past you at 60/65+mph,” a- he declared. “Tow operators have one of the highest death rates in the United States, comparable to police, firefighters, EMS, and roadside construction workers.”

Thusday, 58-year-old man died after a vehicle he was towing slammed into his, ejecting him on a road to Honaunau. Big Island police said it was the eighth killed on the roads this year compared to five at the same time last year. The recent death shows how dangerous it is for those who work on the roads.

Castillo recalls an incident on Pali Highway where he was serving a member with his two teenage boys; their vehicle had a flat tire. The teens’ father showed up minutes after Castillo arrived on the scene, parking behind his bed which was partially blocking the right lane.

“I advised him to move in front just in case someone hit me from behind,” Castillo said. “Indeed, not even five minutes later, a vehicle collided with my tray. Fortunately, the driver was not seriously injured; however, I saved four more lives in the other vehicle that night.

Friday marks five years since Castillo’s former colleague Val Tua was hit while hitting a car in Wahiawa. vehicle impact pinned Tua from the waist down between the tow truck and the other vehicle. Castillo said he was grateful to be alive.

“We all have places to go. We all have families. We help you get where you need to go. We help you return home safely to your families. All we ask is to respect and follow the Move Over law so that we too can return home safely with our families,” Castillo said.

In 2012, Hawaii enacted the go above the law, which forces drivers to slow down and move when an emergency vehicle or tow truck is stopped and the lights are flashing. Drivers must move to the adjacent lane, and if they cannot move, they must slow down.

Among drivers who disobey Move Over laws, 42% think the behavior is somewhat or not at all dangerous to roadside rescuers, according to recent data from the AAA Road Safety Foundation.

Even though Move Over laws have been passed in all 50 states, the AAA Foundation found that nearly a quarter of those surveyed (23%) don’t know the law of the state where they live, and of those who do, about 15% say they don’t understand the potential consequences of violating that law.

“Regardless of the time of day or night, it’s still not safe for us because people don’t adhere to or obey the Slow, Move law,” Castillo said. “Every time I answer a call on the highway, automatically I have my life and the customer’s life in my hands.”

Castillo adds that it can be stressful constantly having to watch his back while keeping an eye on his client when the traffic is whizzing by. Over the years, Castillo noticed that the drivers got worse.

“People are in a hurry. People are on their phones and not paying attention,” he said. “We live on an island – where are you going?!”

To protect roadside workers, AAA offers these precautionary tips:

  • Stay alert, avoid distractions and focus on driving.
  • Keep an eye out for situations where emergency vehicles, tow trucks, utility service vehicles or disabled vehicles are stopped on the side of the road.
  • When you see these situations, slow down and, if possible, move one lane above and away from people and vehicles stopped on the side of the road.