Derrick Tumak has one of the most demanding jobs in the world, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. “I get to help people each and every day, when they most need it. Being stuck along a highway or down a back road in rural Manitoba can be really scary. I love being the guy who shows up to help get them out of a jam,” says the owner of Lac Du Bonnet Towing, family owned and operated by Derrick and his wife Cori for the past 23 years.
They service Lac du Bonnet and all surrounding areas for all auto clubs including CAA as well doing all the towing and storage compound of vehicles for Manitoba Public Insurance. Over the past two decades, Derrick has accrued a bit of knowledge when it comes to staying safe out on the road. Although he makes his living getting people out of a jam, he says what makes him happiest is to see people avoid getting into those jams in the first place.
- Check the forecast. Before you head out onto the highway, view your local weather report. If any kind of weather advisory has been issued or bad weather is ahead, consider postponing your trip. Derrick has had to go out into all kinds of weather, including blinding snowstorms, to rescue motorists driving in hazardous conditions. If Mother Nature is acting up, just stay put and wait for the storm to pass.
- Check your gas gauge. Derrick says it’s a common occurrence for motorists to head out onto the highway with the needle too close to “empty”. Often they don’t realize that many rural gas stations close as early as 9 or 10 p.m. “Cottagers will leave for the city late on a Sunday night planning to fill up in Lac du Bonnet, only to find out the gas stations are all closed, and end up running out of fuel halfway to Beausejour or Selkirk. It’s a good idea to always keep your tank at least a quarter full at all times.”
- Keep emergency supplies in your vehicle, just in case. This means ensuring you have warm clothes, some non-perishable food and a flashlight on you when you’re out on the road. If you do end up stranded, these can really come in handy — especially in the dead of winter.
- Stick to the beaten path and don’t get overconfident. Derrick sees a surprising number of people stuck on back roads that simply aren’t meant for most vehicles, even for an all-wheel drive. Stay on paved roads or well-marked gravel roads and avoid unmaintained or farm roads.
- Last but definitely not least — slow down and move over when you see a tow truck. Derrick has had many close calls over the years as a result of motorists failing to do this when passing his truck while it’s stopped along the side of the road. “It’s very dangerous for everyone involved when people don’t move over and slow their speed,” he says.
Under the Highway Traffic Act, motorists are required to give one lane space to a tow truck on the side of the road with flashing lights on multi-lane roads. Drivers must also slow down to 60 kilometres an hour in 80 kilometre or higher speed zones, or slow to 40 if the posted speed limit is less than 80. Penalties may include a fine of $300 up to $2,000, two demerits, and/or receive a one year driver’s licence suspension.
In July 2017, CAA Manitoba worked with the Winnipeg Police Service to assess drivers’ awareness and obedience by staging calls for roadside assistance on McGillivray Boulevard and Portage Avenue. Based on the visual assessment, less than two per cent of all drivers slowed down and moved over. “Our tow truck drivers, like other emergency workers, should not have to put their lives at risk,” says Liz Kulyk, corporate manager of government and community relations with CAA Manitoba.
“It’s important that we all practice safe driving habits, including driving to conditions and slowing down and moving over when there are flashing lights at the side of the road. Both of these habits can not only save drivers from expensive collision damage, but help them save lives.”