Governor signs bill to protect tow truck drivers
April 19, 2017 | View PDF
The recent passing of “Bobby’s Law” will help to protect the lives of tow truck operators like Bobby Unruh.
Unruh, 37, of Tucumcari was killed on Feb. 19, at mile marker 318 on I-40 near Montoya while attempting to tow a commercial vehicle.
Senate Bill 76 was signed into law on April 6 by Gov. Susana Martinez.
“The governor signed it, because it will keep our families safer on our highways,” said Michael Lonergan with the governor’s office. “With this bill, it’s now crystal clear that motorists cannot drive in a lane adjacent to a vehicle on the side of the road with its lights flashing. By doing so, we’re better protecting our emergency responders and tow truck drivers.”
The law imposes criminal sanctions to include jail time.
“Every operator of a motor vehicle in the state of New Mexico is charged with the civil duty to exercise due care,” said Unruh’s mother, Linda Unruh, in a written statement. “Bobby’s Law would, in addition to civil sanctions, impose criminal sanctions for failure to pull over to the inside lane when encountering a vehicle parked or disabled on the outside of the road. The law would be for the protection of motorists and tow truck employees they employ.”
Senate Bill 76 says that motor vehicles traveling on state or intestate highways are required to move over or slow down for certain vehicles flashing emergency or hazard lights, including recovery or repair vehicles.
“The recovery vehicle standing on a highway for the purpose of removing, and actually engaged in removing, a disabled vehicle and while engaged in towing a disabled vehicle may display flashing lights,” the bill reads.
Drivers approaching a stationary authorized emergency or recovery vehicle displaying flashing lights have to drive in a lane not adjacent to the stationary vehicle, decrease the speed of their vehicle and proceed with caution when it is “reasonable” to do so.
“I believe any motorist or trucker to include law enforcement, ambulance operators, tow truck workers and a vacationer with a flat tire should be protected when upon public highways from heedless, wanton acts of other drivers,” said Linda Unruh. “Bobby did not have to die.”