Bernardo’s Law – a measure designating Oklahoma’s wrecker safety statute in honor of Bernardo Martinez, who lost his life while on the job, was approved by the Senate on Wednesday. Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, authored House Bill 1584.
Bernardo was on duty as a tow truck driver and loading a vehicle on the shoulder of the H.E. Bailey Turnpike when an inattentive driver veered off the road and struck him, amputating both of his legs and his arm. Since his death, Bernardo’s widow, Mayra, and her children have advocated for pull over and slow down policies for wrecker drivers and requested Oklahoma’s wrecker safety law be renamed in honor of Bernardo.
“While there wasn’t a policy change in this bill, it’s brought forth the importance of following Oklahoma’s law to slow down while passing vehicles on the side of the road,” Brooks said. “If we can even save one life in honor of Bernardo’s memory, it will be worth it. I encourage all Oklahomans to think about the men and women working to keep us safe and pay attention to the road, so these workers can make it back to their families safely at the end of the day.”
Oklahoma law states that drivers are required to take certain steps when approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, a Department of Transportation or Turnpike Authority maintenance vehicle, a stationary vehicle that is displaying flashing lights or a licensed wrecker that is displaying a flashing amber light, a combination red or blue light or any combination of amber, red or blue lights. If traveling on a highway with two or more lanes, the driver, if possible, must move over to the next lane to avoid coming in close contact with the stopped vehicle. If that is not possible, the driver is to reduce their speed to an amount that accounts for the existing road, weather, and traffic conditions and allows them to safely pass the stopped vehicle.
“My heart goes out to the Martinez family,” Dollens said. “Bernardo’s legacy will save lives. House Bill 1584 adds the name ‘Bernardo’s Law’ to the already in-place ‘Move Over’ law, which requires drivers to move over, or slow down, for an emergency vehicle with activated lights. This change not only memorializes Bernardo’s life, but also all who have lost their lives responding to a roadside emergency.”
The measure passed the Senate unanimously and now makes its way to the governor’s desk for his signature.