Legislation State programs State laws Transportation Transportation

Washington state tow truck safety bill now law

Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation/Flickr

Olympia, WA — A new law in Washington state is intended to give tow truck operators an added layer of safety at highway crash scenes.

Signed into law April 6 by Gov. Jay Inslee (D), the Arthur Anderson and Raymond Mitchell Tow Operators Safety Act (S.B. 5023) permits tow truck operators to use rear-facing blue-light flashers when they reach the scene of roadway incidents. That’s in addition to the red flashers they’re allowed to use when en route to a scene. 

According to bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Wilson (R-Longview), the legislation is named for a pair of tow truck drivers who were killed on the shoulder of Interstate 5 near Longview in two separate 2021 incidents. Two stranded drivers also died. 

The use of both red and blue flashers will cause drivers to take notice of tow trucks and their operators, Wilson said, and in turn “prevent some of the needless deaths that are a regular occurrence on Washington highways.”

According to NIOSH, citing 2011-2016 data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the motor vehicle towing industry’s fatality rate (43 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers) was more than 15 times higher than the national average for all U.S. private industries combined (2.8 per 100,000). The leading cause of death was motor vehicle crashes, which frequently involved workers being struck by passing vehicles.

Before being signed into law, the bill received unanimous approval in both the House (96-0) and Senate (49-0). The law is set to go into effect July 23.

“I knew Arthur Anderson, and [his death] hit close to home,” Wilson said in the release. “Tow truck operators are heroes to every one of us who has had a car die on the highway. They face danger every time they show up for work.”

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)