If you have the misfortune to be involved in a non-injury fender bender on a freeway, do not leave your car stopped in travel lanes, while you circle the vehicle taking photos of dents and dings from dozens of angles and waiting for a forensics team to arrive and piece together the cause of the collision.
That’s not safe and they’re not coming.
If you find yourself in this situation move your vehicle to the shoulder where you can safely exchange information with the other driver, inspect your vehicle for damage and wait for law enforcement to arrive. This is called “Quick Clearance” and is a traffic incident management strategy that keeps motorists safe and traffic moving.
During National Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Awareness Week (Nov. 11-17), the Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona Department of Public Safety and other traffic-safety stakeholders are providing the traveling public with TIM tips. In addition, motorists will see TIM-related safety messages on overhead signs and on social media this week.
“Not only do TIM techniques keep traffic moving as efficiently and smoothly as possible,” said Derek Arnson, ADOT’s Traffic Management Group manager, “they make it safer for those involved in the incident, safer for those responding to the incident and safer for the motorists traveling near the incident.”
Nearly 350 vehicle crashes occur every day in Arizona and most will be visited by emergency responders, which can include law enforcement, fire departments, medical services, transportation crews and tow trucks. Different responders have different duties on scene – some tend to victims and others gather information about the incident, while others remove damaged vehicles and clear space to make travel safer for other motorists – but all are practicing TIM techniques.
“TIM strategies are used by first responders on a daily basis to keep motorists safe on Arizona’s roadways, while reducing traffic congestion that often causes secondary collisions,” said Lt. Col. Wayde Webb of the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Highway Patrol Division.
While responders employ a variety of TIM strategies that keep motorists safe and traffic moving efficiently, the public plays a role, too. First, motorists can practice “Quick Clearance,” a state law that requires a driver involved in a minor crash without injuries to remove their vehicle from the roadway if it is operable and can be moved safely. In addition to moving vehicles from the roadway to increase safety, Arizona’s “Move Over” law requires motorists to move over one lane – or slow down if it’s not safe to change lanes – when approaching any vehicle with flashing lights pulled to the side of a road or highway.
Giving responders space to work can be a life-saving action, said Angela Barnett, Executive Director of the Arizona Professional Towing and Recovery Association. On average, one tow truck operator is struck and killed every six days in the United States, according to national crash statistics.
“Give us room to do our jobs,” Barnett said. “When you see an incident or flashing lights ahead, please pay attention and slow down. It’s real life out there and we all want to go home at the end of the day.”
Remember, if you are involved in a crash, the first action to take is to make sure you and occupants in your vehicle are OK. Then, if your vehicle is operable, move to the emergency shoulder, median or exit the highway and call 911. Stay out of travel lanes, be alert and watch approaching traffic. Never leave the scene of a crash.