New law allowing blue flashers is prompted by deaths of Longview-area tow operators
OLYMPIA – A bill signed into law Thursday will send a red-and-blue warning to motorists who approach highway accident scenes.
Senate Bill 5023, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, allows tow truck operators to turn on rear-facing blue flashers when they reach roadside emergency zones. That’s in addition to the red flashers they already are allowed to use on the way to an accident.
Wilson says red-and-blue will cause drivers to take notice, and prevent some of the needless deaths that are a regular occurrence on Washington highways. In separate incidents in 2021, two Longview-area operators were killed on the shoulder of Interstate 5 as they worked to remove vehicles. Two stranded motorists were killed as well.
Wilson calls the new law the Arthur Anderson and Raymond Mitchell Tow Operators Safety Act for the two Longview-area drivers.
“I knew Arthur Anderson, and the accident hit close to home,” Wilson said. “But these were not isolated incidents – another driver was killed near Tacoma just a few months later. 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. We should do all we can to prevent needless tragedies like these.”
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says tow-truck operators have an on-the-job death rate 15 times the national average.
Wilson’s blue-light flasher bill is the last remaining item of a broader proposal he offered in 2022. Other elements already have been implemented by state agencies or incorporated in other bills that already have passed the Washington Legislature.
They include a new speed limit in emergency zones – 50 mph wherever the posted speed is 50 mph or more. And as Wilson proposed, funding has been provided to state agencies for develop driver training materials, highway signage and a public-awareness campaign to promote Washington’s slow-down, move-over law.