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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJune 19 - June 25, 2019

Use of Seatbelts Required

Dont be caught dead cfd43By Randall C. Resch

Seatbelts are designed to restrain drivers and passengers from being ejected during traffic crashes; specifically frontal impact and rollover accidents. Fatality studies indicate that people not wearing seatbelts are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during crashes.

The U.S. Seatbelt Safety Center reported that, "Among drivers and front seat passengers, seatbelts reduce the risk of death by 45 percent, and cut the risk of serious injury by 50 percent."

As reported in 2015 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 22,441 passenger vehicle occupants died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. More than half of teens (13-19 years) and adults (20-44 years) died in crashes because they were unrestrained at the time they crashed.

Towmen failing to use seatbelts is ongoing and routine. Tow company management must instill their importance, citing their required use to comply with state law and requirements of the company's insurance provider.

The Rules

Because of the sheer number of miles every tow truck amasses, experiencing a catastrophic blown tire or rollover crash is more possible.

For example: Within a 90-day period in 2009, as many as four tow operators were killed in separate incidents where tow trucks ran off the highway and overturned, rolled over due to a blown tire, and ran off the highway into a ditch where the sudden impact ejected the operator. All towmen were killed as a result of being ejected from their trucks. As many as 33 towmen have been killed in events where ejections resulted from not wearing seat belts.

My company's policy under "Seat Belts" states, "Section 27315 of California's Vehicle Code requires tow operators, passenger(s) and riders to wear seatbelts. Additionally, tow operators will ensure all passengers have seatbelts securely fastened. The Company requires tow operators and service technicians, as well as other driving employees, to wear seatbelts in company owned vehicles, tow trucks, and forklifts, as required by state, federal and OSHA mandates. Tow operators and service technicians will not transport passenger(s) unless seatbelts are available for each person. In situations where there are more passengers than seatbelts, operators will advise dispatch to request appropriate supervisory solutions are readily and immediately determined.

"Employees shall wear seatbelts when riding in company owned vehicles. Specifically, any employee operating company vehicles shall ensure that all passengers are wearing seatbelts before said vehicle is put into motion. Forklift and heavy equipment operators will wear seatbelts at all times when operators are seated atop forklift trucks or operating heavy equipment. Operations will not commence activities until seatbelts are securely fastened.

"If an employee is stopped by law enforcement for not wearing seatbelts, the Company is not responsible for a citation received. Dismissal may occur if tow operators or service technicians have accumulative violations of plus two points and or preventable accidents on a MVR and cannot be insured by the company's insurance provider. For other employees operating company vehicles, you are responsible for wearing seatbelts and have all riders securely seat-belted."

I will tell you from personal experience that using seatbelts can result in surviving a rollover crash. In the early 1970s I was a passenger in a van driven by my brother. While driving I-5 outside "The Grapevine" just south of Castaic, California, ice and snow caused slippery conditions. As my brother downshifted to a lower gear, the van slipped out of control and rolled over. Had I not been wearing the seatbelt, I could have been ejected as the van's doors popped open when the van rolled off the edge of the highway.

Seatbelts don't save lives in all crashes or incidents; however, use of seatbelts has repeatedly demonstrated their effectiveness in saving lives. Employing seatbelts every time may be the difference between survival or a preventable death.

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame, and, a recipient of the 2017 Dave Jones Leadership Award.
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