Accuracy When Sharing Tow Operator Deaths

As we enter a new decade, it’s worth remembering the keys to consuming journalism and social media in this new information age. Increasingly, misinformation is shared across the internet, which can lead to some unfortunate consequences. We’re not here to talk about politics, influencers, or deep-fakes, rather, we want to focus in on one thing: the reporting of tow operator deaths.

In the first 48 hours of 2020, our industry was hit with two losses of life. First, on New Year’s Eve, an operator was killed while working in Kentucky. After initial reports, the death was ruled accidental, as the truck he was hooking up allegedly rolled back on him. Absolutely tragic, but not an effect of failure to slow down/move over. Next, on New Year’s Day, an operator from O’Hare in Chicago was killed by a passing motorist while hooking up. Andrew Dove-Ferdere, 23, was standing outside his truck when he was hit by a sedan. This was the result of a motorist’s failure to slow down/move over. Finally, there were reports circulating in the afternoon of January 1st that an operator was killed in the line of duty in Truckee. After a few hours and many shares/likes/retweets later, it became clear that this was not the case and the death had nothing to do with the gentleman’s line of work.

Let us be clear: each of these deaths is absolutely tragic, senseless, and a massive loss for the respective communities. However, it is vital that we are accurate and specific when it comes to tow operator deaths. These three deaths were each very different: the first was an accident due to either equipment failure or operator error; this is not something we should be tagging with #SlowDown #MoveOver and *angry face*. If we do, it undercuts when a motorist actually fails to follow the law and ends someone’s life. The death in Chicago is a perfect example of when to shout about the Move Over Law from the rooftops. The other death in question from Truckee is an example of why we need to exercise patience, skepticism, and critical reading before sharing online.

It’s tempting to do a knee-jerk share when we see something online that stirs our emotions (we’ve all done it), but it’s important to read critically. Here are some tips on doing so:

  • Be Skeptical
    • Take any new information you see online or from a friend with a hint of doubt. You must expect the source to provide proof of their information and also show how they came to their conclusion. If you’re skeptical of something you read, seek out the same story from a different source to compare the information.
  • Be Patient
    • News stories often unfold over the course of hours, days, or even weeks. If details are fuzzy, it’s a good idea to wait for them to come more into focus before sharing.
  • Know the Information Landscape
    • Misinformation has been around since the dawn of civilized society, but the internet has really muddled the waters. Ask yourself whether the platform you’re reading the news on has any financial obligation to tell the truth, or whether their business model is predicated upon getting clicks. Those outlets will post just about anything to get you to click.
  • Investigate the Info
    • Being skeptical means investigating the things being told to you. It’s always good to check the date on the article. If the date is old, it’s probably not a good idea to share, as people will think this is new If there’s no date at all, that’s a big indication that you should proceed with caution.

These tow operator deaths are most certainly NOT how we wanted to start 2020, but we can be clear about what our industry wants and needs from lawmakers and the public: we just have to be CLEAR and ACCURATE when making those demands. Thank you all for your passion, time, and efforts- wishing you all a safe and prosperous New Year.

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