Traffic incidents pose three primary concerns:
- Traffic congestion delay, including delay to emergency responders;
- Increased risk of secondary crashes;
- Risk to incident responders.
The goal of efficient incident management is to:
- Reduce the duration of traffic incidents, without compromising effective investigation by law enforcement agencies.
- Protect traffic incident responders by limiting their time at a scene.
- Reduce the risk of secondary crashes.
- Manage traffic around incidents to reduce congestion delay, and minimize the amount of traffic flowing past the incident scene.
The guide outlines best practices for each entity involved in order to improve incident management:
- Develop response protocols for freeway closures, which include pre-planned diversionary routes and traffic control in coordination with local public agencies. Meet with police, fire and other local officials before incidents to review such plans.
- Install urban freeway reference markers at 2/10th-mile increments, which will allow cellular telephone callers to report incident locations with greater accuracy.
- Deploy freeway service patrol vehicles to remove debris from travel lanes and assist motorists broken down on the freeway shoulder or in travel lanes; include arrow boards to assist with traffic control for incidents.
- Create video links from traffic management centers, to share with law enforcement and fire/rescue agencies. These video images can be used to minimize the amount of fire apparatus dispatched to a scene.
- Participate in the incident command system to communicate with fire and police agencies and advocate for the prompt clearance of the scene.
- Set up safe traffic control around the crash scene, divert traffic upstream of an incident through the use of changeable message signs, and provide traffic information to the media and general public.
Law Enforcement Agencies:
- Meet with fire and transportation agencies to review predetermined incident response plans.
- Within the unified incident command system, communicate with transportation agencies to establish traffic management/detours, and direct a partial or complete reopening of the roadway as quickly as possible.
- For accident investigations, efficiently collect evidence and survey scene using Total Station equipment or aerial surveying.
- For minor (non-injury) crashes, have dispatchers provide guidance to drivers on local policy for moving vehicles from travel lanes, and exchanging information as per state law.
Fire and Emergency Medical Agencies
- Dispatching the minimum amount of equipment necessary to reduce the exposure of personnel at the scene. (Fire agencies can be aided by the receipt of video images from DOT traffic management cameras).
- Effective training in the identification of hazardous materials, to avoid lengthy lane closures for material that does not pose a threat to people or the environment.
- Effective training in temporary traffic control around incidents, in order to keep lane(s) of traffic open when possible.
- Effective communication as part of the incident command system, so that partner response agencies are aware of progress in rescue efforts, can make correct decisions regarding traffic management and provide traveler information to local media.
Towing and Recovery
- Pre-qualification of towing companies by municipalities, so the towing company called to an incident scene has the capability to handle the vehicles involved.
- Training law enforcement in the Towing & Recovery Association of America’s vehicle identification guide, to ensure the correct equipment can be requested and dispatched to the incident.
- Weighing the cost-benefit of calling in third-party recovery teams, if their distance/time of travel will have excessive impact on the amount of time lanes remain closed.
- Move commercial vehicles or trailers to the roadside or shoulder to restore as many travel lanes as possible, as soon as possible; then perform any necessary salvage operations after the peak hour.
Policies that Support Better Incident Management
While individual agencies can make changes to improve the efficiency of incident clearance, adopting best practices at the local level can reduce the risk of traffic incidents, reduce incident duration and restore traffic flow as quickly as possible. Some of these policies may include:
- Adopt law or policy to limit the time that vehicles can remain on freeway shoulder (e.g., Columbus, Ohio limits to three hours).
- Allow DOT personnel to assist law enforcement with tagging abandoned vehicles, so that their duration on the freeway shoulder is tracked as accurately as possible.
- Adopt "steer-clear" statutes or policies, with signs directing motorists to move fender-benders to the roadside.
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