Oklahoma roadside workers sound alarm about deadly roadside risks

US Hwy 59, Delaware County, Oklahoma (Koss #930) – Koss Construction


A new AAA survey of Oklahoma roadside workers, including police, fire maintenance and utility crews and tow drivers, sheds an alarming light on dangerous driving behaviors that have resulted, nationally, in hundreds of deaths at the roadside.

More than 50% of Oklahoma roadside workers polled* said they have had at least one near miss incident or felt their life threatened  – with 35% saying it happens ‘routinely’ – because motorists do not slow down or move over for those working along the roadside, despite the fact that Oklahoma law requires them to do so.

“Nationwide, an average of 24 first responders are killed every year while working along the roadside – that’s a tragic loss of life every other week,” says Leslie Gamble, spokesperson for AAA Oklahoma. “AAA and our traffic safety partners pushed for a strong Move Over law here in Oklahoma but, clearly, there is still work to be done to ensure the safety of any motorist disabled at the roadside and the first responders who come to their aid.”

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That work, includes a new PSA being launched by AAA this week ahead of National Slow Down Move Over Day (Saturday, October 16.) The PSA features first responders from across the country who are making an impassioned plea to motorists to give them room on the side of the road to do their jobs safely.

The AAA Poll of Oklahoma Roadside Workers* found:

  • 65% say that, in their experience, Oklahoma motorists do NOT slow down and move over for those working along the side of the road
  • More than 60% say they do NOT feel more safe since the Move Over law was put in place
  • 51% say that they personally have been involved in a near miss incident or had their life threatened because a motorist failed to move over –
  • With almost 35% saying it happens ‘ROUTINELY’.

The findings of the first responders’ poll are in sharp contrast to an earlier AAA poll of Oklahoma drivers –98% of whom said that they do slow down for first responders at the roadside and move over a lane whenever safe to do so. But first responders say that is not what they are experiencing.

“Many Oklahomans do a good job of moving over for first responders, however, there are still a large number of motorists not paying attention,” said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Foster. “This is crucial for not only our safety, but for the safety of those we are stopping to help. I just recently recovered after being struck in a construction zone by an impaired driver. I am grateful that no one else, including the construction workers, were injured.”

Already this year, two AAA tow drivers have been killed while assisting motorists at the roadside – but it’s not just first responders who are at risk. Since 2015, over 1,600 people have been struck and killed while outside of a disabled vehicle.

“The goal is not just to make motorists aware of the law. The goal is to change driver behavior and put an end to these senseless tragedies,” Gamble adds.

*AAA Survey of Oklahoma First Responders, Tow Truck Drivers and Roadside Workers: Survey conducted via Survey Monkey from September 10-19, 2021 resulted in 634 respondents.

**AAA Poll of Oklahoma Drivers: AAA surveyed 1,076 drivers from Aug 18-19, 2021. The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, NC and has a margin of error of +/- 3%. 

Source: AAA release