Tragic accident shines light on towing-operator omission from new safety rule

From 1 July 2017 a new road rule was introduced to improve safety for government emergency and enforcement workers. This law has the full support of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), but there has been a stakeholder engagement oversight by VicRoads that has led to tragic consequences. Recently, a towing operator had their arm severed in a horror crash near the intersection of Peninsula Link and Frankston-Dandenong Road in Melbourne. This may have been avoided if tow truck operators were afforded the same safety rules as emergency and enforcement workers.

“This terrible accident has left a valuable member of the community disabled forever. VACC wishes this individual, who is known to the Chamber, all the very best under what are extremely challenging circumstances,” said VACC Executive Director, Geoff Gwilym. “Unfortunately, this should never have happened in the first place. The towing industry performs an important community service, and at times, operators work in similar conditions to emergency and enforcement workers. These conditions are often dangerous, so towing operators should be afforded every protection available, as this terrible accident has highlighted. VACC calls on VicRoads to immediately amend Rule 79A to include towing operators in what is otherwise very sound policy,” added Mr Gwilym.

Rule 79A requires motorists to slow down to a speed that would enable them to stop safely when approaching and passing enforcement, emergency or escort vehicles that are stationary or moving slowly and have either red, blue or purple flashing lights or an alarm sounding. Motorists must not exceed 40km/h when passing the vehicle and not increase their speed until a safe distance from the scene. Vehicles, and their operators, currently covered by Rule 79A include: Police, Ambulance Victoria, Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Country Fire Authority, Forest Fire Management Victoria, State Emergency Service, VicRoads Transport Safety Service, Enforcement vehicles under the control of a state transport body (including Fisheries and Taxi enforcement vehicles) and other emergency patient transport vehicles with red and blue flashing lights.

Motorists can be fined for not obeying this law.

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