Christian Gruber said it it’s just part of the job.
In March, Gruber was headed southbound on Interstate 5 in his Roseburg Towing truck when he heard on the scanner about a wrong-way driver heading toward him.
He activated his overhead lights and started slowing down and creating a serpentine pattern to slow down the cars behind him. He slowed to total stop at an angle in the middle of the road which stopped all of the traffic behind him.
“To be blunt, I never considered the possibility she would hit me,” Gruber said. “I was in a big F-550 tow-truck and she was in a little Honda Civic.”
Gruber said the police radioed in what happened and word spread.
“Traffic wasn’t upset about it, I’m assuming, because they saw the car coming at them and knew what I did,” Gruber said. “There was no honking or anything.”
He thought the excitement had died down until he received an invitation from American Towman magazine in September for the annual American Towman Exposition in Baltimore last November.
At the festival night, Gruber was one of nine tow,truck drivers nationwide given an American Towman Commendation award for courageous professionalism. On the medal, the words “Courage Under Fire” on inscribed on the back.
Gruber said he’s stopped traffic in similar situations at least three times as a truck driver, including an incident immediately after coming home from the conference.
“This wasn’t something done to get recognition,” Gruber said. “It was a big surprise. I think a lot of people, if they had the ability to do what I did, would.”
Gruber said he hears about wrong-way drivers on the road a once or twice a week.
According to the Oregon State Police on Wednesday, 403 wrong-way drivers were reported in Oregon since the beginning of the year.
Last year, 495 were reported.
In May, a wrong-way driver near Yoncalla struck and killed four people.
According to the US Department of Transportation, about 350 people die in the U.S. every year because of a wrong way driving accident.
A meta-analysis by the National Transportation Safety Board found that more than half and as many as three quarters of wrong-way accidents are the fault of a drunk driver.
“Things do happen and tow truck drivers can be first responders,” Gruber said. “It’s a split second decision to do the right thing, to make that decision to act. It’s just what we do.”