Slain tow truck driver’s family seeks to strengthen ‘move over’ law

Published 11:19 am Thursday, May 2, 2019

Family and friends of the late Tommy McKee, who was killed last Tuesday when he was struck on I-55 while loading a car onto his tow truck near Hernando, say they will push for more enforcement of the state’s Move Over law, and for harsher penalties when there is a loss of life.

McKee’s friends and work acquaintances sponsored a car wash Friday at Groovy’s Garage on Tubbs Rd. Proceeds from the car wash and decals honoring McKee will go to his family. He left his wife and four children.

Washing cars were members of three detail shops including C.J. Kimmons of Cream of Crop Detailing; KV Morris of Blue Line Detailing; and Heath McGovern of Groovy’s Garage.

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Saturday after his memorial service a large number of tow truck drivers and other emergency vehicles made a loop in McKee’s honor from Wells Funeral Home on Highway 35 N to I-55 to the Highway 6 West exit through Batesville to Highway 51 and then north to Highway 35 and back to Wells Funeral Home.

Scotty Mitchell, brother of Tommy, said his death was “totally preventable.”

McKee’s death has brought more attention to drivers about the state’s Move Over law. Drivers are asked to move over to the left lane and slow down when tow truck drivers or emergency responders, or even private citizens, are pulled over to the side with lights flashing.

According to the official definition, Move-over laws require motorists traveling on multi-lane roadways to, when practical, merge away from a vehicle working on the side of the highway to provide an empty travel lane of safety for the worker. If not practical (either due to traffic volume or road design), the motorist must slow significantly below the posted speed limit while passing the roadside worker.

Able owner, Curtis Lauderdale said he did not just lose a tow truck driver, he lost family and a good friend.

“Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have hired Tommy, but he turned his life around. You couldn’t ask for a better community worker than him. He would stop and help anybody,” Lauderdale said.

The tow truck drivers are upset they do not get the respect of emergency responders from drivers when they are on the side of the road helping other people out.

Mitchell said he was told that McKee did everything right that fateful Tuesday. He said the other driver had both wheels off the interstate when he hit McKee, who had pulled onto the road’s shoulder.

The Move Over law carries a minimum fine of $250 and a maximum fine of $1,000. Police cited Devan E. Simpson for failure to move to the other lane following the accident.

The tow truck owners and drivers want to see the law changed to include a sentence or fine when someone is killed as the result of careless driving.

Lauderdale expressed thanks to the towing services who picked up the slack this week when Able could not get to people.

“We may be a cutthroat business, but in situations like this we are all together.”

“The family appreciates what everybody is doing all over town,” Mitchell said.

In addition to towing for Able Wrecker, McKee was the assistant fire chief for Courtland and worked in law enforcement for the Crenshaw and Pope Police Departments.