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Families of tow truck accident victims testify on “move over” bill

Slow down and move over when you see flashing lights


-March 25th, 2021

HELENA, Mont. – “Slow down and move over when you see flashing lights,” it’s a sentiment being echoed at the State Capitol after two tow truck drivers were killed last fall near Columbus.

Casey Allen and Nick Visser died when a car that did not move over, hit them on the side of the road as they were helping someone else. It all happened in the middle of a snowstorm and now lawmakers are pushing a bill through that would heighten the punishment for not moving over for any kind of emergency vehicle.

So far, it has sailed through the house with a unanimous yes vote. On Thursday, family members of those tow truck drivers stood in front of Montana lawmakers, speaking up not just for their lost loved ones, but for all emergency and first responders.

Both families are hoping that fewer roadside incidents will take place after last October’s tragedy. Even though the bill passed through the House unanimously, it has still taken a bit of effort to get this bill into the legislative process.

Last session, a similar bill never made it out of committee and unfortunately, this tragedy has brought the issue into the limelight this session. Both families expressed the same sentiment today, as they were happy to see broad support for this bill, but hope that drivers across the state will be more mindful going forward as they drive on Montana’s highways.

“This is really important,” Barry Allen, Casie’s father, said. “No law is perfect but we can do a lot better with this one particularly and it will help save lives.”

“Hopefully, in the future, it will keep other families from having to do, go through some of the things that we have to go through and deal with the tragedies that we’ve been dealing with for the last five months.”

They testified earlier this afternoon with Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger, who is also the President of the Montana Fire Chiefs Association, and he says the bill has their full support.

“The reality is we can’t outguess the people that are coming at us,” Cowger said. “In all our different incidents, we can mitigate things or we can back off of them. Motor vehicle accidents, we cannot do that, especially on the interstates and everything.”

“So, as far as I’m concerned, this is critical, this is one of the most important and one of the most dangerous things that we do.”

Barry and Kendra Visser both say that helping with this bill has given them an outlet for their frustrations over what happened back in October. I asked Visser what she hopes will be the enduring legacy of this bill if signed into law.

“To prevent it,” Visser said. “For people to have the knowledge of it to show people how they should be doing on the roads.”

Both the Allens and Vissers also say they are working to start a non-profit for other families who have been affected by similar accidents here in Montana and across the country.

Both families say they have been encouraged to continue fighting for this bill. The Senate Highways and Transportation Committee will vote on the bill probably early next week, and if passed by the Senate, it will go to the Governor’s desk.

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