This month, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and its partners began a year-long effort to engage state DOTs, first responders, community traffic reporters, drivers’ education instructors, grassroots preparedness organizations, and motorists as part of preparation for the first National Traffic Incident Response Week, which will take place November 13–17, 2017.
Why is this so important?
According to data released earlier this year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 35,092 people—someone’s daughter, son, co-worker, and neighbor—died on our nation’s highways in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2015. The figure represents a 7.2% increase over 2014, which makes it the greatest one year increase in 50 years, and breaks a recent historical trend of fewer deaths occurring per year. With an increasing number of vehicles miles traveled and incidents to respond to, it is imperative that we work together to ensure that our emergency responders are able to do their jobs.
Traffic incident management (TIM) experts tell us that drivers are not aware of the laws in their states, especially “Move Over and Slow Down” laws and others similar in purpose. And the disciplines that suffer the most from this ignorance are our safety service patrols, tow truck operators, transportation or public works maintenance crews, fire and rescue personnel, and law enforcement officials.
Over the next year, FHWA, first responders, and other key partners across the country will lay the groundwork to remedy this, culminating with the inaugural National Traffic Incident Response Week. Ideally, by this time next year, responders, community leaders, and preparedness organizations will have used the week to prepare drivers and their local public safety professionals to take safe actions and prevent responder, driver, or passenger deaths. Police, fire and rescue, safety service patrols, emergency medical professionals, towers, and public works and transportation crews will talk to communities about dangers that kill drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and those who rush to their help.
FHWA selected the week of November 13–17, in part, because it coincides with USDOT and FHWA campaigns running the same time that remind travelers to be especially safe during the holiday season by driving sober and without distraction, using seatbelts, and being aware of your surroundings as you walk, bike, or drive on our roads.
Several states are conducting events this month to raise awareness and prepare for National Traffic Incident Response Week. State DOTs in Iowa and Missouri are hosting ride-along events in conjunction with safety service patrols and law enforcement agencies to show the public what happens at incident scenes and what to expect when a driver encounters roadway operations geared to clear an accident. Florida has developed slogans for its variable message signs and is showing videos at rest stops throughout the state illustrating motorist responsibilities when approaching a crash scene.
Nationwide, the National TIM Network has formed a working group at FHWA’s request, and is providing links to safety statistics, PSAs, and a training video developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and FHWA. You can find all this, and other resources, here.