Tow truck drivers plead for more safety on the job after one of their own is killed

Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 6:22 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The search is still on for a suspect in the hit-and-run death of a local tow truck driver. But that driver’s death is bringing to light just how dangerous the job can be.

Jason Willis was killed Thursday morning while towing a car on Interstate 20 in McDuffie County. Troopers are still working to identify the car involved.

Life behind the wheel of a tow truck is miles and miles of close calls.

“Sometimes it makes your heart skip a beat,” Philip Deans Jr. of T-Dog Towing, said.

Deans says his heart skips a beat a little too often. He’s spent the past 10 years as a tow truck driver for his business T-Dog Towing because he loves helping people.

“Save their day -- like Superman," he said, laughing.

Real-life heroes like Jason Willis, which he knew.

“Heartbreaking. Very heartbreaking,” Deans said. “We have family as well that we have to go home to, you know?”

According to AAA, a tow truck driver is killed every six days. And a Bureau of Labor Statistics study showed only pilots, roofers, and fishermen have higher death rates.

Georgia Department of Transportation data shows in McDuffie, Columbia, and Richmond counties since 2015, there were more than 200 hit-and-runs in general reported on I-20.

“Most people be on their phone not paying attention and stuff like that. Sometimes things happen, you know what I mean,” Deans said.

But it’s preventable. It’s as easy as paying attention and showing respect.

“Please move over to the next lane or slow down to a speed that is safe,” Deans said.

Yet oftentimes, all a tow truck driver can do is wear a vest and turn on his lights -- and say a prayer.

“Pray, you know, before I go to bed at night and when I get up. Be protected, in the hands,” Deans said.

That tow truck driver says he wishes they would be considered first responders. He believes they would get much more respect out on the road.

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