The son of a tow truck driver is making an emotional plea with drivers.
The 19-year-old who recently lost his dad said if more drivers took their time, it could give people like his dad more time to live and enjoy their loved ones.
Michael Griffith is the oldest of his three brothers, and he is left to do the speaking for the family after his father was fatally run over by a drunk driver on State Route 52.
“I don’t believe a better person could have been taken out by a worse person,” Griffith told NBC 7.
His dad, 55-year-old Fred Griffith was trying to help a disabled trash truck on the freeway near Mast Boulevard last month. A driver swerved into the shoulder, ending Griffith’s life.
“It is my understanding it was an instant death and he didn’t suffer,” Michael Griffith told NBC 7.
Michael Gilbert Gray, 48, is accused of driving away after the crash, until an off-duty officer stopped him about a mile away. Gray had a half-finished open bottle of vodka in the car with him, Griffith said, and a law enforcement source confirmed to NBC 7.
Griffith said he believes most drivers would not be as reckless and heartless as Gray but he said the majority of drivers are dangerously unaware of the rules of the road when it comes to tow truck drivers.
The tow operators are also considered first responders, often arriving at traffic hazards and crash scenes before police and fire.
Drivers need to slow down and change lanes when it is safe to do so to give tow truck drivers room to operate, according to Griffith and the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
“He was where he should have been. He wasn’t doing anything. He wasn’t sticking out in a lane,” said CHP Officer Jake Sanchez
Griffith said his mom and his 14 and 17 year old brothers lost a wonderful father and husband, and San Diego lost a good man.
“As a father, he was incredibly caring, and he was always interested in what you had to say,” Griffith remembered.
Griffith said his father had a special gift for lending a listening ear to those contemplating suicide, often convincing them that life was worth living.
“He did that many times,” Griffith said. “Unfortunately the final time he had a chance to do it, the person jumped before my dad had the chance to get through traffic on the other side. My dad always told me that really tore him up on the inside. Because the last thing he did was look into his eyes.”
Griffith urged drivers, in memory of his dad, to study the rules of the road around tow truck drivers.
“Many lives have been lost. And people just need to be more aware of how just a simple lane change can save someone’s life,” Griffith said.
According to accident data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, injury and fatality rates among emergency responders – including tow truck drivers – are more than twice the national average for all industries.
“It’s 10 minutes max that you could be late to your job. What’s worse? 10 minutes late or someone dying?” Griffith said.
On Saturday morning, more than 100 tow truck and flatbed carriers from across San Diego County came together honor his father. The procession traveled from RoadOne Towing on Chesapeake Drive around 11:30 a.m.
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