Edmonton

Alberta towing company owner renews call for blue lights after driver's close call on Highway 16

After a collision sent one of his tow truck operators to hospital on Thursday, a towing company owner west of Edmonton is renewing a call for blue and amber lights to be allowed on roadside assistance vehicles in Alberta.

Blue and amber lights have been allowed on Saskatchewan tow trucks since 2017

Gregg Wilson, owner of APL Towing & Recovery, says blue and amber lights could prevent collisions between tow trucks and other vehicles. One of his drivers was recently sent to hospital after being struck by the driver of another vehicle. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

After a collision sent one of his tow truck operators to hospital on Thursday, a towing company owner west of Edmonton is renewing a call for blue and amber lights to be allowed on roadside assistance vehicles in Alberta.

Gregg Wilson owns APL Towing & Recovery, based in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain. 

He said one of his employees was on Highway 16, near Range Road 22, to recover a vehicle from a median and had pulled onto the shoulder with his lights on to wait for a blocker unit to arrive.

While he was waiting, another driver drove into his vehicle.

The tow truck driver was sent to hospital and is now home, expected to make a full recovery. Both vehicles were badly damaged.

Stories like this are all too common, Wilson told CBC News Friday morning. Just last week, there was a less serious but similar incident with another driver for the company.

"We don't go a day without an incident or a close call," he said.

Wilson said blue and amber lights on tow trucks could make them more visible to drivers at night because the unique colour combination would stand out.

He said he and his business partner have raised the issue with decision-makers, but they have yet to act and don't seem in a hurry to do so.

Another driver ran into this tow truck on the shoulder of Highway 16 on Thursday. The tow truck company's owner says blue and amber lights, which are not currently permitted for roadside vehicles, could have made it more visible in the dark. (Submitted by Gregg Wilson)

Two years ago, an Alberta petition supporting the idea drew more than 11,000 signatures. 

In 2017, Saskatchewan became the first province to allow a two-colour lighting combination for tow trucks. The legislation change followed the death of a tow truck driver who was killed in a roadside collision during a blizzard.

In an interview with CBC's Radio Active in March, Jeff Kasbrick, vice president of government and stakeholder relations for the Alberta Motor Association, said research shows blue and amber is 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.

Only police vehicles are currently permitted to use blue lights in Alberta, but Kasbrick said they are already used on snow plows in other Canadian and American jurisdictions.

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

Rob Williams, press secretary for Alberta's minister of transportation, said the government has partnered with the University of Alberta to research improving safety for roadside crews.

He said their report is expected early in the new year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Madeleine Cummings is a reporter with CBC Edmonton. She covers local news and files for CBC Edmonton's web, radio and TV platforms. You can reach her at madeleine.cummings@cbc.ca.

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