New Washington State law aims to keep tow truck drivers safe

Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 5:42 PM PDT
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OLYMPIA Wash. (KPTV) - It’s a new law that will help keep tow truck drivers safe while at work in Washington State.

Senate Bill 5023 was unanimously passed by both chambers of the state legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee. When the bill does become law, it will be named the Arthur Anderson and Raymond Mitchell Tow Operator Safety act. Anderson and Mitchell were two Longview tow truck drivers who were killed on the job in 2021.

Nearly two years after his death, Anderson’s daughter, Sparkle Chisum, said she and her family is still grieving.

“When a car breaks down or I see somebody stuck on the freeway, it’s very hard,” Mitchell said.

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Anderson was killed in April 2021 when he was helping a spun-out car along I-5 near Kelso. Two other people who were in the car Anderson was helping were also killed. The driver of that car, Annie-Christie Ireland was arrested and charged with three counts of vehicular homicide. Raymond Mitchell was killed while he was helping retrieve a disabled car along 1-5 near Kalama in Sept. 2021. Chisum said this new law will be a way to remember both her father and Mitchell.

“The Mitchell family feels the same as I do having the name on the bill,” Chisum said. “It makes a difference for our families, for the community, for us. Our traumatic injuries, the traumatic accidents that happen to us is being heard finally.”

The new law will require drivers to slow down to a maximum speed of 50 mph when they’re passing a tow truck on the freeway. It will also allow tow trucks to use rear-facing flashing and blue lights, similar to what police cars and ambulances use when they’re at an emergency scene. Chisum said this help communicate to drivers that there is a serious situation ahead and treats tow truck drivers like the emergency responders they are.

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“It gives alertness of a distance of miles that you can see ahead of time,” Chiusm said. “Like hey, there is something going on up here. So it gives you time to slow down and to move over.”

According to AAA, on average 60 tow truck drivers across the country die each year while on the job. Chisum said this soon-to-be-new law will help reduce that.

“Everybody deserves to go home,” Chisum said.