There has been a lot of discussion recently — as well there should be — regarding the number of responders being struck at roadway incidents. There are also many people offering their opinion as to the reasons why and several different approaches for preventing these tragedies.
We are exposed to the drunk drivers every time we set up on a roadway incident. These drunk, distracted, drowsy, drugged drivers no longer care about the first responders at a wreck scene on the roadways. When they are asked to slow to get around a scene, they feel inconvenienced and get frustrated and angry quickly. There are documented cases of deliberate struck by incidents due to this anger and frustration.
As an Incident Management Specialist I can tell you that there is no one leading factor that results in these numbers and there is truly only one fix. A single struck by fatality is one too many however there are ways to address this issue.
First, the wrong time to learn about the free Traffic Incident Management (TIM) training that is available to every law enforcement officer, firefighter, medic, tow operator, public works employee, coroner and more, is when you are being cross examined in a court of law after a struck by injury or fatality. If you have no understanding of best practices it will only be a matter of time before you will be litigated against. Why we are struggling to get all of these disciplines into this no charge training is beyond me. The price of the training is certainly not a factor.
Second is the lack of funding for law enforcement officers on our roadways. If we doubled the number of Highway Patrol Troopers and they became much more visible, people would slow down and more proactive traffic stops would prevent much of the dangerous behavior that we see every day. The cost of this roadway carnage is much higher than the cost of putting more troopers on our roadways.
Third, if we got serious about our Slow Down Move Over laws and made the fine several thousands of dollars with four to six points deducted, then directed all police officers to strictly enforce this law, we would probably get more compliance on the roadways.
So in reality, knowing how the legislative process goes, second and third choice are probably out of the question. How about choice number one?
As I write this column nearing the end of May 2019, only 28 percent of our law enforcement officers, 48 percent of firefighters and 12 percent of our medics in the U.S. have completed TIM training according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), including 44 percent total in South Carolina and 41 percent in North Carolina (these percentages actually may be high). The obvious question is, why are these numbers so low?
The same statistics from the FHWA tell us that on average we lost 10 law enforcement officers, 10 fire/rescue personnel and 40 to 60 tow operators each year from struck by incidents in this country. Some people have stated that first responders have taken a passive approach to safety. If all of your personnel have not had TIM training, then this is absolutely correct for your department. This training offers a multidisciiplinary approach to everyone working together with safety as the main focus.
The best practices offered in a four hour detailed presentation brings home how all responders to roadway incidents can operate together, and go home at the end of the call. And contrary to popular opinion, TIM training is for all roadway incidents, not just interstates. TIM training is for any and all personnel who might respond to a roadway incident for any reason from the Sheriff or Chief, to the brand new rookie cop or firefighter.
Traffic Incident Management training shows how to set up a scene so that when everyone works together and follows the best practices outlined, the majority of traffic will slow down and the scene will be much safer for all involved, including first responders and the motoring public. In almost every case, when I complete this important four hour training, either a training officer for a department who participated, or a city or county risk manager will tell me that all of their people need this training and then they ask me when can I come back to present it to their public safety people and their public works personnel.
As a technical committee member of NFPA 1091, Standard for Traffic Incident Management Personnel Professional Qualifications, I cannot overemphasize the importance of TIM training. Regardless of whatever new tools or products that are introduced which may or may not enhance your safety on our roadways, much like the best practices we learn in Incident Command System training that work on every incident, being trained in the best practices with the TIM program will greatly increase your chances of going home after every roadway call. Period.
After spending over two decades responding to roadway incidents both on interstates and most other types of paved surfaces, I can speak from experience when I say that Traffic Incident Management training is critical. I encourage each and every one of you to check with your state agency responsible for this training.