AUSTIN, Texas — Every six days, a tow truck driver is killed in the United States, according to AAA. Laws like the "Move Over/Slow Down" law are in place to prevent a tragedy. However, many people don’t know they exist or simply ignore them.
Tasha Mora, co-owner of A&A Wrecker and Recovery, said at least one tow truck driver is killed every week. Patrick Morin is one man who was killed while doing the job he loves.
“He loved it,” said Mitzi Morin, Patrick Morin’s wife. “I’m biased, but he was the master at his craft. He was so good.”
Mitzi Morin explained that her husband died in December 2022 when an intoxicated driver didn’t slow down or move over a lane when Patrick was securing a vehicle onto his record along US 183.
“There was a knock on the door,” Mitzi Morin said. “They just stood there and looked at me. And I just said, 'This is not good.'”
Patrick Morin was hit by a hit-and-run driver. The suspect failed to stop and render aid, and he died at the scene.
“The record is damaged because it hit Patrick with such force, and it threw him into the record,” Mitzi Morin said. “It crushed the door in the glass. So, his body did all that damage to the record. And then the really sad part is that his body was run over by another vehicle.”
This is something she always feared would happen. Often, she would accompany her husband on his jobs and knew just how dangerous his career was.
Tasha Mora, who runs a family owned tow-truck business, said collisions like this one are becoming more common every day.
"Motorists are either just distracted or drunk, or don't realize what the laws are," Mora said. "And so, many operators are being struck and killed."
Mora said a lot of her family members work for her towing business.
"When dispatch comes in and, you know, your husband, your son, your daughter, your work family ... operators on your team have been dispatched to service that collision," Mora said. "Your heart stops, and you want to hear back immediately."
Tela Mange with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation said many people don't follow the Move Over/Slow Down law.
"If you're driving on the highway or you're driving down any road, you need to pay attention to what you're doing," Mange said. "Watch what's going on around you."
The Move Over/Slow Down law requires drivers to move over a lane or slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit when approaching emergency vehicles, law enforcement, tow trucks, utility service vehicles, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) vehicles or other highway construction or maintenance vehicles that have visual signals or flashing lights activated on the roadside.
On Dec. 9, Austin Police Department’s Highway Enforcement Command ran a traffic initiative focusing on the Move Over law. The operation ran from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the 4800 block of East Ben White Boulevard.
Mora donated a tow truck to this operation, and the goal was to bring awareness to the Move Over/Slow Down law. Officers parked the tow truck on the side of the road to see how many people would follow the Move Over/Slow Down law. At the end of the initiative, they gave out 77 warnings, with the top speed being 83 mph on a vehicle passing the parked tow truck.
Deeper dive into the numbers
KVUE reached out to TxDOT to get the number of deaths in Central Texas relating to the law. TxDOT was only able to provide data from 2020 and beyond, and because 2020 was the primary year of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were fewer cars on the road.
In 2022, there were 13 crashes and one death in Travis County because someone failed to move over or slow down for a vehicle displaying emergency lights. This is double the amount of crashes when compared to 2021.
Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Gillespie, Lee, Llano and Mason counties had zero Move Over/ Slow Down-related crashes in 2022.
Williamson County had 11 crashes and zero deaths in 2021, and two crashes and zero deaths in 2022.
Now, advocates are pushing to get these numbers to zero.
Texas State Rep. Lynn Stucky filed a bill in December 2022 that seeks to increase the penalty for drivers who break the Move Over/Slow Down law. Stucky hopes to increase fines with the bill and increase the level of misdemeanor it is.