Slow down to 60 is message of safety awareness event

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald A rollover demonstration by the Prince Albert RCMP was just one of the features at a roadside safety event on Tuesday night at the Prince Albert SGI Salvage.

Slowing down to 60 when passing roadside responders is an important safety lesson, and on Tuesday night, SGI Salvage and Gateway North Towing hosted an awareness event to remind drivers about it.

Brad Stratychuk, past president of the Roadside Responders Association of Saskatchewan, said there are still too many drivers who don’t realize the trouble they cause when they don’t slow down, but things are getting better.

“I have been in the towing industry 40 years and in the last five or six years, I’ve seen a lot of, I’m going to call it respect,” Stratychuk explained. “(There is) a lot more respect from the general population and traffic slowing down when we’re on the side of the road,” he explained.

“It’s hard for people to imagine what that’s like being on the side of the road working, whether you’re in the fire department or an ambulance driver or highways worker or a tow truck driver,” he added.

The Roadside Responders came up with the idea of a Spirit Ride to help increase public awareness about the importance of slowing to 60 when passing stopped emergency vehicles.

The Ride was created in honour of Courtney Schaefer, a Saskatchewan tow-truck driver who was run over and killed while responding to a call during a blizzard in 2017.

The Spirit Ride was also on hand for the evening at the Salvage.

“We wanted to bring public awareness, so we started having community events where we would have a burger and invite law enforcement, fire, ambulance, these kinds of things to attend these events,” Stratychuk explained.

Several demonstrations and activities were available for the public and media on Tuesday, including a vehicle extrication demonstration by the Prince Albert Fire Department and an airbag deployment exercise and a rollover simulation by Prince Albert RCMP.

Stratychuk said that the events were aimed at getting the public to ask about the safety issue.

“The whole goal of it was to prevent having to put any more plagues on the Spirit Ride,” he explained.

Prince Albert Police Chief Patrick Nogier was also on hand to speak about safety. There were also towing companies and fire departments on hand from places such as Smeaton and Melfort.

“Prior to COVID, there was one tow truck driver killed in North America every nine days, which is more than police, fire and ambulance combined, so we ended up doing some of those public awareness campaigns,” Stratychuk said. “The whole goal is if there’s 100 people here and 10 people get that message, that’s 10 people less than we have to worry about running us over, working on the side of the highway.”

The reason it was at the Prince Albert salvage yard was Boni Ehmann of SGI Salvage. She wanted to be a part of the event, which first took place last year.

“She put this together last year and invited us to bring the Spirit Ride, and we’re back this year. It is bigger than last year, and hopefully that message spreads,” Stratychuk said.

“There’s lots of participation. I see fire trucks here from outside of Prince Albert. I see some towing companies from all over the province and so that’s what it’s about is just getting that message out.”

There was a large crowd in attendance and Statychuk hoped the message got across.

“Hopefully everybody that came is enjoying it and hopefully get the message and they can tell their friends and on and on it goes (so) everybody that works on the side of the road can get home at the end of their shift,” he said.