Tow operator pleads for drivers to watch for yellow lights

By Jason Hawk -

David Vaughn Jr. puts his life on the line every day and has had some close calls.

The owner of Vaughn’s Auto Repair in Amherst Township said he worries about vehicles that zoom by his tow truck, often passing just feet or bare inches away.

“We’ve lost pockets on our pants, we’ve lost flashlights from cars that have rubbed up against us. People just don’t get over,” he said.

Now Vaughn is campaigning for both his own safety and that of other tow operators across the nation.

He plans to stage a big rally from 5-8 p.m. on Saturday, March 5 at Rt. 2 and Middle Ridge Road, featuring a line of police, fire, Ohio Department of Transportation, sheriff, Ohio State Highway Patrol, and tow vehicles.

It’s meant to highlight the importance of the state’s “Move Over, Slow Down” law.

Tow operators all over the country plan to make similar stands the same evening in an event dubbed Move Over United States.

The Rt. 2 location is special to Vaughn.

Seven years ago, he was responding to a call there when a driver lost control, went off the roadway, and slammed into his rig, causing $8,500 in damages.

Vaughn said he had two tow trucks out that day — both with overhead lights flashing — but the driver simply was not paying attention.

And that’s far from the only time Vaughn has had his life flash before his eyes. He said he’s had scrapes on both busy four-lane highways like Rt. 2 and small, rural state highways like Rt. 113.

“When the cars won’t move over, it’s incredibly dangerous,” he said. “You never get used to it. There are three things you don’t want to hear as a tow operator: Tires squealing, dogs barking, or somebody screaming.”

There’s no doubt his is a dangerous job.

Between 50 and 100 to truck drivers die on the job each year in the U.S., according to the International Towing and Recovery Museum, located in Chattanooga, Tenn. At least 30 died in 2015.

In recent weeks, there have been two casualties: Rogelio Perez-Borroto, 43, of Florida, and Jason Schultz, 28, of Michigan.

Here in Ohio, the law is very clear. Ohio Revised Code 4511.213 says to let off the gas and change lanes if possible when you come upon any vehicle with flashing emergency lights on the side of the road — whether they’re red, blue, or yellow.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk