Near-miss footage a startling reminder

In the world of a tow truck driver, safety is everything. Their office is the highway, their desk is a 12.5 tonne truck and their clients are scared motorists stranded in broken down vehicles.  Each job carries the risk of death if they don’t go by the letter of law.

Adam McLauchlan has spent more than 20 years on the road as a Vehicle Recovery Officer and knows too well the dangers on the road.

“We were attending a broken down car on the side of the Logan Motorway a few years ago,” Mr McLauchlan said.

“Traffic was flying along at 100km/h as we pulled up to load this car onto the tray.

“We had to call in for backup so our attenuated vehicle could park up behind us and act as a shield.

“It has a safety trailer attached to it that’s rated to absorb a crash of up to 100km/h.

“I never truly understood its power until that day. A 19-year-old girl, travelling at 90km/h, ran straight into it. No brakes, no stopping. She hit it with full force but miraculously walked away without injury to her or to us.

“We’re really conscious of the fact we have responsibility for the lives of the broken down motorist as well. Their safety is our number one concern.”

RACQ’s highway clearance crews undertake almost 60 jobs in high speed environments each day, or 22,000 every year. RACQ also carries out almost one million roadside jobs across Queensland and has more than 700 vehicles in its fleet state-wide.

Each recovery job has its own distinct set of risks and equally its own set of safety protocols to follow.

Every Vehicle Recovery Officer is specially trained to quickly assess the dangers at any scene. They are trained to evaluate the risks, secure the scene, clear the breakdown quickly but above all how to keep the motorist safe at all times.

“For us safety is all about the ‘what ifs’,” he said.

“What if another car doesn’t see us, what if the traffic is going too fast, what if the driver panics and tries to get out of the car. We’re constantly thinking ahead and planning for the ‘what ifs’.

“At all times we have access to our 24-hour field support team that can help call in backup if we need it or give advice to help get the driver to safety.

“We do this job because we want to keep our members safe. We’re the reassurance at the side of the road, the sigh of relief for a panicked driver, and the calming voice helping them to safety. For us safety is everything, we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Next week is Yellow Ribbon National Road Safety Week, 8-14 May, and motorists are encouraged to do their part and “drive so others survive” and consider their actions on the road and how they can protect vulnerable people on the road side, including first responders like police, emergency services and roadside assistance workers.

The initiative was started five years ago by Peter Frazer, whose daughter Sarah was killed on a New South Wales highway. She, along with an NRMA Patrol Officer were tending to her broken down vehicle when they were struck and killed by a passing truck.

Given the nature of the crash and the calls for improved safety for first response personnel that followed, Yellow Ribbon is very close to RACQ’s hearts.

Take the pledge to drive so others survive here.