OWEGO — State Department of Transportation Highway Maintenance Worker 1 Ryan Ashman was working at a different worksite when he got the call that his co-worker and close friend Dennis “Matt” Howe had been seriously injured when a tractor-trailer hit his work vehicle.
While Howe lay in critical condition in the hospital, Ashman thought of a way he could help Howe’s wife and two children. Howe passed away from his injuries on March 18, five days after the incident.
“I saw him in the hospital and it wasn’t pretty,” Ashman said. “I knew something had to be done for his family because they were not ready for what happened, and really there is no way to prepare for this kind of situation.”
Ashman decided to raise money for the family by selling shirts, sweatshirts and hats bearing the hashtag #MoveOverForMatt and a logo identical to the arrow that was on the back of Howe’s truck, reminding people to “move over, it’s the law.”
All proceeds go to Howe’s family, and the effort has already raised nearly $10,000.
Ashman hopes the fundraiser also raises needed awareness.
“My hope for the #moveoverformatt fundraiser is really more than just moving over for Matt,” he said. “It’s moving over for me and all my brothers and sisters at the DOT, it’s moving over for every law enforcement officer that’s got someone on the side of the road, all the tow truck drivers, all the EMTs, anybody who gets a flat tire on the side of the road. If there’s flashing lights on the shoulder, it’s just common courtesy to move over and it’s the law.”
“I really hope that getting the message out there in this way helps people realize that it’s a real life or death situation when you’re going 65 miles per hour past somebody on the shoulder,” he said.
Ashman said he wishes members of the motoring public could experience what it feels like to work alongside a busy highway.
“Working on the highway is one of the most gut-wrenching things that I’ve ever done,” he said. “To step foot out there with the traveling public bearing down on you at 75 miles per hour, there’s just no way to explain it, it’s a feeling like no other. I wish everybody who had a license had the opportunity to stand in a work zone and feel the rush of a tractor-trailer going by at 75 [miles per hour], three feet away.”
— Mark M. Kotzin