DES MOINES, Iowa -- Eric Krohn has been a tow truck operator most of his life.
"You never really know what you're going to run into."
The view from his "office" consists of two lanes and dozens of cars and trucks barreling towards him.
"You know, like this," he says, motioning toward a semi just inches from his window. "You’re right here and there’s nothing you can do."
Krohn says helping people is the best part of his job. The worst part of it?
"You don't know if you're going to go home at night."
Take the time an SUV nearly hit him as he tried to hook up a mini-van, stalled next to a guard rail. He says he was forced to roll under the van in order to dodge the SUV.
Nationwide, at least eight tow truck operators were killed on the job last year and seven law enforcement officers were struck and killed in the line of duty. In Iowa alone, four state troopers have been hit in the last year. Fortunately, all of them survived.
Iowa law requires motorists to move into a lane not adjacent to emergency, recovery and maintenance vehicles when lights are flashing. If that's not possible, motorists are supposed to slow down, reducing their speed to less than the speed limit. The fine for violating the "Move Over, Slow Down" law was increased from $50 to $100 in 2012, after two tow truck operators, Jesse Inman and Daniel Walsh, were killed in an accident on Interstate-80 near Grinnell.
Inman and Walsh were hooking up a semi when another semi side-swiped it. Inman was caught in what tow truck operators call the "kill zone," an area between the wrecker and the vehicle being towed.
Inman's widow, Lisa will never forget the knock on her door that night.
"It was a state trooper and then two of his co-workers were with him."
Jesse Inman left behind three daughters. Lisa Inman cherishes the one picture she has of her husband holding their youngest, Brin.
"It’s really hard. He misses so much, especially with my little one. I mean, she was 10-weeks-old and she never got a chance to meet her father."
Julie Hanifen, the President of Hanifen Towing, won't forget the accident either. Inman and Walsh were also part of the Hanifen family.
"That day in September," says Hanifen holding back tears. "That’s the hardest thing this company has ever had to experience. I don’t want that to ever happen again to any of my drivers or anybody else’s drivers."
Hanifen was instrumental in strengthening the "Move Over, Slow Down" law, but she recognizes it's hard to enforce.
"Because if we’re alongside the road and there’s an officer behind us and someone doesn’t move over and they leave to give them a ticket, they leave me exposed. So, it’s a toss-up. Is it worth leaving to give that person a ticket or to keep me protected?"
The Iowa State Patrol says it conducts periodic "Move Over, Slow Down" enforcement projects from the air. Des Moines Police say they look for violators during speed enforcement stings, but Hanifen believes the roads are more dangerous than ever.
"There’s so many distractions for drivers anymore – between cell phones, texting, eating."
Efforts to issue tickets via cameras, mounted on tow trucks and emergency vehicles haven't been approved, but Hanifen is hopeful they might be, someday. Lisa Inman would like the law already on the books, fully enforced.
"You gotta think more about the people around you," says Inman.
It's too late for her family, but she says it would help those with loved ones still on the road.
"They have families to go home to. I have three little girls that don’t get a chance to see their dad."