PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Transportation is seeing a concerning increase in deaths of stranded motorists on Florida's Turnpike.
This comes after the latest death of a tow truck driver who was hit at least three times and killed in St. Lucie County.
John Easterling, district traffic operations engineer for Florida's Turnpike, said last year there were 10 people killed on the turnpike who stepped out of their vehicles, up from four deaths in 2020 and five deaths in 2021.
"We're a little more than five weeks into the year and we're already at two, so we're really concerned about that trend,” Easterling said.
That's why he is helping promote a stranded motorist safety campaign to remind drivers to be watchful and move over.
He shared the following tips:
- Move vehicles from travel lanes.
- Call *347 for Florida Highway Patrol and Road Rangers.
- Remain inside vehicle with seatbelt on and wait for help.
If it's not safe to get out of your vehicle:
- Exit vehicle safely and get behind protective barrier/guardrail.
- Do not stand outside of vehicle.
- Do not walk or stand on shoulder.
- Do not walk across roadway or travel lanes.
- Move over and slow down when nearing a crash or when you see first responders or road rangers.
- Maintain safe travel speeds.
- Do not text and drive.
- Wear a seat belt.
"Frankly, drivers just need to be cautious when they're approaching anyone on the shoulder," Easterling said.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the tow truck driver, a 57-year-old Miami man, was standing adjacent to the tow truck's driver's side door, which was open, in the southbound lane at 12:06 a.m. near mile marker 149 between the Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce exits.
A 20-year-old Deerfield Beach woman driving a sedan in the right lane struck the open truck door and the man in the right lane.
The sedan came to a controlled stop in the southbound lanes. The man was struck by three other vehicles.
All three vehicles that struck the man continued traveling southbound on Florida's Turnpike without stopping.
The man was pronounced deead at the scene.
Aron Dames owns Aron's Towing based in Hobe Sound and said safety is always a concern and priority for tow truck drivers.
"I've almost been hit a couple of times, and a good friend of mine in Fort Pierce had a driver get killed several years ago," Dames said.
He is also hoping drivers will be more cautious following the recent death.
"It's sad, you know. It's like, that's your fellow brother, a guy that tried to help people and working for his family and lost his life," Dames said.