HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The statistics are sobering. More than 500 first responders and utility workers have been struck and killed over the past 10 years along U.S. roadways, according to the National Safety Commission.
In 2007, Mississippi lawmakers passed a Slow Down and Move Over law in hopes of preventing those types of deaths. However, in a recent poll, more than 70 percent of those who responded had not even heard of the law, but a Hancock County first responder hopes to change that after his brush with death.
The owner of Moss Towing says an 18-wheeler traveling at 70 mph side-swiped one of his tow trucks over the weekend, causing major damage.
"I had just stepped away from the truck. It could have easily been me," said the tow truck driver, David Perks.
The accident happened on Interstate 10 in Hancock County. The owner of Moss Towing says the accident was captured on a dash camera from a passing truck.
Perks was sent to the area to pick up an RV, but instead came close to losing his life.
"This was just way to close of a call. If I was there, I'd be gone," said Perks.
Perks and the owner of Moss Towing say the accident could have been avoided had the driver of the 18-wheeler obeyed the state's Slow Down and Move Over law. It requires drivers to change lanes when they see red, yellow, white or blue lights flashing on the roadsides.
"We have the lights on the trucks for a reason, and that's to let people know we're out there working on the roadside, and we need them to slow down and move over just to be safer on us. We've noticed, since the law has been in place, it's not really changed us a whole lot. We're still having cars pass us within a couple of inches. We just need them to move over. If everybody had to stand on the side of the highway like we did, they'd know what we're talking about," explained Bennis Moss, owner of Moss Towing.
Perks' close call shook him up to the point of launching a campaign to educate drivers about the move over law. His first initiative is cutting a series of public service announcements at local radio station WQRZ.
He plans to lobby for more signs on the roadways, reminding drivers about the law.
"We're out there to help you, and it would be nice if you were out there to help us by moving over," said Perks.
In Mississippi, the penalty for breaking the move over law consists of a fine for as much as $200. Perks says part of his awareness campaign will be to lobby for an even heftier fine.