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Signalling for Change: Alberta tow operator calls for emergency lights for tow vehicles

Spruce Grove, Alberta — An Albertan tow operator is signalling to provincial legislators a need for better safeguards after one of his employees was hit by a vehicle while attending to a roadside assistance call.

Saskatchewan allowed the use of blue and amber flashing lights for tow operators in 2017 and now Gregg Wilson of APL Towing and Recovery in Spruce Grove, Alta. is calling for similar legislation to come to his province.

Wilson told the CBC that one of his employees was struck by a vehicle on Highway 16, near Range Road 22, while waiting for a blocker unit to arrive early in December, sending the employee to the hospital and badly damaging both vehicles.

Wilson’s driver is now back home from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. His boss, on the other hand, is taking the issue to the government and citing a disturbing frequency of incidents such as this.

“We don’t go a day without an incident or a close call,” said Wilson.

There is documented support for emergency lights for tow trucks in Alberta, as indicated by a 2019 petition with 11,000 signatures in support of the idea.

Jeff Kasbrick, vice president of government and stakeholder relations for the Alberta Motor Association, has also confirmed blue and amber as the most effective colour combination in alerting and raising motorists’ attention.

The AMA, which responds to a high-risk call every 14 minutes, has been lobbying the Alberta government to allow the lights for three years. 

“We deploy safety blocker units, we have visible clothing, reflective cones, ongoing training and despite all of that, it’s very clear from our lived experience that more needs to be done,” Kasbrick said.

Kasbrick noted that snow plows in many Canadian and American jurisdictions are allowed to use flashing blue lights.

“So we, by no means, would be a first mover in this regard in Alberta,” he said.

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