Law change spurred by tragic accident involving tow truck driver
In the wake of a tragedy, South Carolina legislators are currently working to strengthen the state's "move-over law" to protect tow truck operators.
Last November, Eddie Mills, the owner of Mills Towing in Greer, was struck and killed by a passing motorist while attempting to tow a disabled vehicle off Interstate 85. His surviving relatives and more than 25 other tow truck operators traveled to Columbia to testify in favor of changing the law to prevent similar car accidents from happening.
Under the current law, section 56-5-1538, motorists who approach a stopped authorized emergency vehicle that is flashing warning lights are required to move over into a non-adjacent lane, if it is safe to do so. If changing lanes is impossible or unsafe, the motorist is required to maintain a safe speed for road conditions.
The issue with the current law is the definition of "authorized emergency vehicle." Tow trucks are only considered authorized emergency vehicles if they have been dispatched by the state or by a county or municipal government to respond to an accident. The law provides no protection for tow truck operators responding to a call from a private citizen with a disabled vehicle, as Mills was.
The proposed law change, nicknamed "Eddie's Law," would classify tow trucks as authorized emergency vehicles under all circumstances.
Moving over saves lives, protects vulnerable people
South Carolina and many other states have implemented move-over laws due to the risk to police officers, paramedics, tow truck operators and others who respond to accidents, especially on highways. These people are very vulnerable to being seriously injured or killed when they exit their vehicles to respond to the accident. Accidents involving emergency responders can be even more deadly than most pedestrian accidents because the vehicles involved are typically traveling at high speeds.
According to the lawmakers supporting Eddie's Law, motorists are less likely to move over for the amber lights used by most towing companies than for the red and white lights used by police and fire departments. The hope is that the proposed law will bring those flashing amber lights to the forefront of motorists' consciousness.
Regardless of whether this proposal goes into effect, motorists have a responsibility to pay attention to the road and avoid any possible hazards, including stopped emergency vehicles. When negligent motorists fail to move over and put others at risk, they should be held accountable for the damage they cause.