Workers on the highway seek greater safety protections

·2 min read

Roadside workers continue to lobby the government for improved safety regulations, including access to blue lights to alert passing motorists of their presence.

In late November the Alberta government allowed snowplow and tow truck drivers to use flashing white strobe lights to increase visibility.

Goodfare resident Shawn Gerow, who works in sign repair, said the change doesn’t go far enough.

“We see this as a failure of government to protect us while we’re working,” said Gerow.

“Having a semi go by your truck while parked on a shoulder, at 100 or 110 kilometres per hour ... those vehicles in the near lane have the potential to hit my truck and cause serious damage.”

Gerow spoke to Town & Country News last spring about the need for greater protections for workers along the highway.

He said line locators, surveyors, sign maintenance staff and roadside assistance workers currently have amber lights, but he argued they should also have access to blue lights.

The government’s announcement snowplow and tow truck drivers can have white lights came as a surprise, but he said many of the workers he’s been lobbying for won’t benefit.

“Vulnerable highway workers need to be included, along with tow trucks - many roadside assistance vehicles that aren’t tow trucks do the same work as a tow truck,” Gerow said in January.

As well, he questions the effectiveness of white lights, saying blue in addition to amber would better protect workers.

“A white light can blend into its surroundings on a stationary vehicle, and it doesn’t (signal) there’s a hazard ahead,” Gerow said.

“There’s so many amber lights out there, everybody has become complacent with them.”

Gerow said studies support his position, including a 2017 report by the Alberta Motor Transportation Association that states blue lights are “proven more effective in preventing collisions.”

Gerow said he’s pursued a change for the past three years, beginning when former Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale introduced a bill in 2017 to allow white or blue lights for tow trucks.

The bill never became law.

Gerow said he and approximately seven fellow local industry workers recently met with the Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce to discuss the issue and hopefully secure the chamber’s support.

Gerow said the Alberta Motor Association has also contacted various MLAs in hopes to make headway on improved protections.

In the meantime, Gerow said he is interested in continuing to raise awareness of this issue.

Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News