NORTH ABINGTON TOWNSHIP, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s been barely three months since a new law took effect aimed at making highway roadsides safer. The goal of the ‘Slow Down, Move Over Law” is to protect first responders but just how well is that law working?
AAA says a tow truck driver is killed once every six days on the job on average. A local tow truck operator who lost his son responding to a roadside emergency says more awareness and compliance of the ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ law is needed to prevent such a tragedy.
A photo taken days before the death of tow truck operator David Duchnik, Jr. still haunts his father five years later at the business they ran.
It was the younger Duchnik’s 29th birthday when he and his dad were called to a roadside emergency along Interstate 81 in South Abington Township. A tractor-trailer barreled into the crash scene.
“I was standing five feet next to him when he got hit, you know. I had my last words with him when I told him what to do. I said, ‘Hook the chain on the truck’ and the next thing you know he was dead,” explained Duchink.
Roadside tragedies like that resulted in Pennsylvania’s ‘Steer Clear’ law in 2016 which was modified this past April to ‘Slow Down, Move Over’. It requires drivers to merge away from emergency vehicles or decrease speed by 20 miles per hour from the posted speed limit.
“This is not something that’s a courtesy. It’s not something that’s optional. When you see a vehicle, police, fire, EMT’s, highway maintenance or tow truck drivers on the side of the road helping someone, you need to slow down and move over,” said Kathleen Zinszer, Senior Public Affairs Specialist, at AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Drivers breaking this law face fines and possible points on their licenses.
Duchnik helps raise awareness to the new law. He maintains a year-round memorial to his son on the median of I-81 near the crash scene.
The Duchnik family also sponsors a billboard each summer trying to prevent another family from enduring their unspeakable pain.
“I do see a lot of the trucks moving over now.” Hiller says, “You just want to see more. I need to see more. I mean, it’s still not enough,” said Ducknik.
The Duchniks are holding their annual golf tournament this weekend which helps fund ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ awareness. To learn more about the event you can head to their Facebook page.