Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A great time to give thanks to IRT

By Mike Allende

You’ve likely seen them pushing a disabled vehicle to the shoulder, or cleaning up after a collision, or picking up debris in the middle of a highway. Being a member of our Incident Response Team is a challenging, dangerous job but one that is vitally important to keeping traffic moving safely.

In 2014, IRT cleared more than 48,000 incidents in an average of just over 12 minutes.
Recognizing the importance of everyone who responds to issues on the highway, the Federal Highway Administration declared that Nov. 14-18 is the first ever national Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week.

Having done several ride-alongs with our IRT group, I’ve seen first-hand what it’s like for them on the highways, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. While they take every precaution they can to be safe, there’s no getting around the fact that their work often involves being outside of the relative safety of their vehicle while traffic zips by. Every one of our team members can recount dozens of close calls, including a very scary one on the I-90 bridge in September.

Every minute a lane is blocked can result in up to 10 minutes of congestion,
so IRT’s response time is critical in keeping traffic moving.

While IRT’s response is meaningful to each person they help, it also helps the entire highway system in a big way. According to our most recent corridor capacity report (pdf 9 mb), our IRT group responded to 48,691 incidents in 2014, and cleared them in an average time of 12 minutes, 12 seconds from the time they were first notified of the situation. Given that every minute that a lane is blocked results in up to 10 minutes of traffic congestion, that response time goes a long way in keeping traffic moving. The team’s assistance resulted in about $74.1 million in estimated savings to travelers and businesses by reducing idling time, late deliveries and helping to prevent secondary incidents.

IRT may help by clearing a stall or providing gas, or they may be tasked with providing traffic control
 or clearing the roadway after major collisions.

But we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: They need your help.

Please slow down and give work crews as much room to work as possible. The safer they feel, the quicker they can help. If you can clear your vehicle to a shoulder or off the highway, please do. It’s typically safer and will make it easier for our crews to help you out. If you do need help getting off the highway, listen to IRT’s instructions and cooperate and they can get you to safety.

IRT’s priority is to make sure you can get where you’re going as safely and quickly as possible. They take helping the traveling public seriously, and they do a great job. So we’re excited to have this week to raise awareness to their work, and offer them a big “Thanks” for all they do.