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Grieving mother on mission to get drivers to 'move over' for first responders

Her son died on the job in New Mexico in 2017.
Posted at 11:27 PM, Jan 23, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. -- One worker or first responder is killed on the roadside every other week in the United States.

Hundreds more are injured while assisting drivers on the roadside, according to AAA.

Linda Unruh joined AAA in Tampa on Thursday to spread awareness and encourage drivers to follow state law.

"My son really always believed he would come home. Bobby didn't have to die that day," said Unruh.

Unruh lost her 37-year-old son in 2017. He worked for the family's towing business. He was killed on the job on I-40 in New Mexico.

"I was able to talk to him 20 minutes before the truck hit him and he says to me, 'I got this. Nobody's going to get hurt on my watch. I promise. I'll call you when I'm finished,'" said Unruh.

Nineteen days after her son's death, a law in New Mexico was named after her son. It is designed to keep tow truck drivers safe.

"In New Mexico, they call it Bobby's Law. They named it after him," said Unruh.

In Florida, the Move Over Law requires drivers to move over for authorized vehicles displaying visible signals while stopped on the roadside. If drivers cannot move over, drivers must slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit and approach with caution.

"The problem we are facing now, we have so much distraction with new cars, distraction with cell phones and just distraction with not paying attention. It's like a disrespect on our highway," said Unruh.

AAA launched a campaign to protect tow operators and first responders. AAA released a video which features the names of people who died while helping stranded drivers on the shoulder of the road.

AAA released a slogan, "Their lives are on your shoulders. Slow down, move over."

"These first responders work on the shoulders of our highways and now it's up to us. It's on our shoulders to be able to get the word out," said Unruh.

According to the Florida Highway of Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 182 crashes and more than 20,000 citations issued to motorists for failing to move over in 2019.