Dozens of tow truck drivers and first responders escorted a casket Saturday through the streets of Oklahoma City to raise awareness about highway safety. The nationwide Spirit Ride is a two-year campaign with a powerful statement to make.
The National Safety Commission reports 71 percent of people have never heard of "Move Over" laws that require drivers to give an extra lane of space for roadside emergencies, but the Spirit Ride aims to show it could mean the difference between life and death.
Participants started the Oklahoma City leg of the voyage by passing a spirit stick from person to person, symbolizing the connection between tow truck drivers, first responders, construction workers and citizens of the world. It acts as a reminder of those killed by carelessness.
“Whatever else you feel you need to do in your car while you’re driving, you need to be driving, watching us,” said Sean Davis, a heavy duty operator for Arrow Wrecker.
Davis took on the responsibility of driving the ceremonial Spirit Ride casket from Oklahoma City to Texas, joining a chain of 5,000 tow trucks nationwide. The task is personal, years after a driver ran into him on the side of the road.
“He was drunk, middle of the night, didn’t get over,” Davis said. “I’ve had a lot of close calls. I’ve lost friends, lose troopers every year.”
Participants also paused for a moment of silence during the ceremony to remember those killed in the line of duty.
Oklahoma City fire Chief Keith Bryant said first responders are not always able to look out for incoming traffic at a scene.
“We’re paying attention to the people we’re trying to help, people that were involved in the accident, trying to get that damaged vehicle off the road out of the way,” he said.
As the lengthy procession of tow trucks and emergency vehicles snaked its way through the city, though, drivers had no choice but to slow down for the flashing lights.
Mike Corbin and his wife Ilce are traveling the entire route of the Spirit Ride, engaging with the tow truck drivers along the way. Corbin not only writes songs in memory of workers killed in roadside accidents, but he also built the ceremonial casket which is decorated with highway scenes.
“They just want to get home to their families, and they want the respect from the motoring public,” Corbin said.
Move over laws are enforced here in the Sooner State for emergency vehicles as well as tow trucks and construction crews, and a violation is punishable with hundreds of dollars in fines.
To learn more about the Spirit Ride and see where the casket is heading next, click here.