BILLINGS — At all six Hanser's Automotive locations across south central Montana, truck horns rang out at precisely 3 p.m. Monday to mark the one-year anniversary of the deaths two of the company's drivers: Casie Allen and Nick Visser.
“Hopefully people start to take this seriously and start slowing down and moving over. People don’t need to die. People should be able to go do their jobs," said Sara Hauorth, dispatch supervisor at Hanser's in Billings.
Casie Allen, 28, of Reed Point and Nick Visser, 37, of Billings were killed last year after a passing motorist struck the men while they were trying to recover a vehicle stuck in a Interstate 90 ditch near Columbus on a snowy day.
“I wish he was here to see this. He would tell us not to fuss. He didn’t need all the attention. But I’m thankful for Ralph and the Hanser family for getting this put together, all of the workers that did this. It’s humbling, but it’s still sad," said Kendra Visser, Nick's widow.
At the Billings shop, the Hanser's crew parked Visser and Allen's former work tow trucks at the front entrance and parked a reader board between them that displayed the message: "Remember Nick and Casie."
Visser said it's always a tough moment when she spots her husband's old blue tow truck driving around town.
“It’s hard to see somebody else driving it and to see it on the road. It kind of gives myself this numbing feeling, because when we hear this coming down the road, it’s noticeable. It’s hard," Visser said.
On Oct. 1, the state's new move over law went into effect. If drivers fail to slow down and move over for emergency responders, first-time offenders can be given a fine between $100 and $500 and could face up to 90 days in jail. Fines and jail times increase upon subsequent offenses.
Publicity the new law received hasn't changed the habits of Montana drivers, Haworth said. The Billings Hanser's crew always has close calls, and had some particularly nasty ones while on a semi recovery on Airport Road in during the recent snow storm a few weeks back, Hauorth said.
“We had signs stolen and both of our flaggers almost got hit multiple times. It’s unfortunately not changed a whole lot yet, but I think people just need to be more aware and take it more seriously," Hauorth said.
Visser said she thinks the penalties aren't high enough to dissuade people from ignoring the move over law, but it's a start.
“People still aren’t paying attention, slowing down and pulling over. They’re not, but we’ll keep trying to make it to where it will make a difference. I will try my hardest for him and for Casie and for everybody else that is out there on the road. It’s not just firetrucks and sheriffs and highway patrol, it’s tow truckers," Visser said.