South Dakota Strives for Positive Legacy After Highway Death of Tow Truck Driver

By Kelley Anderson

Dale Jones was a Watertown, South Dakota, tow operator assisting a motorist out of a snowy ditch the morning of January 4, 2020, when he was struck and killed by a passing vehicle. As a public safety telecommunicator, I had spoken to Jones many times on the phone. All the responders in the area knew Dale and his wicked sense of humor. Receiving the call that day of a fatality was hard enough. Knowing we were sending his friends, our officers, to that scene added a whole new twist on a tragedy.

Without tow truck drivers, there would be no way for officers to move vehicles and make the roadway safe for everyone after accidents. In that spirit, Jones’ death has had the same effect for all responders on the roads of South Dakota. Gov. Kristi Noem designated June, the month of Jones’s birthday, as Move Over Awareness Month in South Dakota. The South Dakota Legislature also passed two laws designed to protect stopped emergency vehicles in response to this tragedy. Senate Bill 164 revised penalties regarding approaching stopped vehicles. House Bill 1170 revised provisions for the use of lights by tow truck vehicles and Department of Transportation vehicles.

The state also designated the roadway where Jones was killed as the Dale Jones Memorial Parkway. By renaming this road, I hope that everyone who sees the sign remembers that this life did not have to end so soon. If everyone can slow down and move over, all our responders can go home to their families, even those who aren’t normally recognized. Jones was a memorable character. The new laws and the attention given to the importance of moving over for emergency vehicles is a legacy I’m sure he would be proud of.

Kelley Anderson is with the Watertown Sheriff’s Department 9-1-1.