PISCATAWAY, NJ – Area tow truck drivers, fire fighters, police officers, and EMS operators joined in the 2017 American Towman Spirit Ride procession through Middlesex County on Wednesday, honoring the memories of first responders who lost their lives in road-side accidents while in the line of duty, and bringing awareness to New Jersey’s ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ law.

The procession began at Piscataway’s New Market Fire Department after a commemorative ceremony and followed local roadways and Route 18 through New Brunswick, East Brunswick, Old Bridge, and South River, and Route 9 to Freehold and Marlboro. It ended in Howell where another ceremony is planned for Thursday at Certified Auto Mall.

“This is a nation-wide effort that started in the beginning of June and continues through the end of this year and starts again next spring,” said Deanna McCrisken of Blue Streak Transport in Middlesex who organized this year’s procession. “It brings awareness to the ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ law which is actually a nation-wide law that a lot people don’t know about.”

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The law, which in New Jersey went into effect in 2009 requires motorists to slow down or change lanes when driving past stopped emergency vehicles that are working on the side of the road with their lights flashing. Drivers could face fines between $100 to $500 for each violation.

American Towman magazine had a custom casket built to honor first responders, such as police, fire, tow trucks, anybody that works on the side of the highway representing people who have lost their lives,” said McCrisken who first learned of the awareness campaign at an industry trade show.

The Spirit Casket, a memorial casket which is being used as the main symbol of the magazine’s national campaign, made a stop at the New Market Fire Department for the mid-day commemoration where Mike and Ilce Corbin of the Spirit Ride’s Command Team led a tribute to those who lost their lives to drivers who weren’t paying attention to road side activity.

“We’re getting the word out about the dangers,” said Mike Corbin, a singer/songwriter for the tow industry and the carpenter who built the casket. “We’re getting a lot of new media coverage, a lot of towers and law enforcement and first responders; I think through that we’re getting through to people because it’s on the news a lot.”

“People see us driving down the road in processions with the casket and see the RV with the ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ message and on the casket, so hopefully it’s getting through to someone,” he said, describing how he included artwork showing first responders assisting with accidents alongside busy roadways and spiritual messages of protection.

“We chose to honor the fallen by remembering their sacrifice and by doing what we can to protect those who are over the white line,” said Corbin’s wife, Ilce during a ceremonial blessing. “This is the mission of the Spirit Ride.”

Several tow companies from Middlesex, Piscataway, Hillsborough, Elizabeth and other towns participated in the Spirit Ride’s opening ceremony and procession, as was an ambulance crew from Dunellen, police motorcycles from East Brunswick, and fire officials from Piscataway. Additional rescue units and tow crews were expected to join the line as the procession made its way through the various towns to Howell.