Monday, November 9, 2020

Traffic incident response work not for the faint of heart

By Mike Allende

Responding to traffic incidents on our state highways is not for the faint of heart. Whether it's our Incident Response Team or maintenance workers, or our partners with Washington State Patrol and other law enforcement, fire and medical response crews or tow truck companies, working amongst live traffic can be dangerous, challenging work.

But it's also vital in helping keep everyone safe and moving on our highways.

This week – Nov. 9-13 – is both national and Washington Traffic Incident Response Awareness week, where we recognize the fantastic work road crews do to keep the public safe. And we want to ask your help to do your part in keeping those crews safe.
A driver suffering a medical emergency crashed into the back of our Incident Response Team truck on I-5 near Federal Way in late October. Our IRT worker had pulled over to help another vehicle on the shoulder of the highway.

It's not unusual for us to hear about near-misses or worse that our road crews experience. Almost every one of our IRT and maintenance teams can recount an incident where their safety was compromised. Recently we saw two such incidents.

On Oct. 30, Matt, one of our IRT workers in King County, pulled over to the shoulder to help a vehicle that was stopped on the side of southbound I-5 south of SR 18 near the Federal Way weigh station. As he was preparing to exit his truck to see if the occupant of the car needed help, another car rear-ended his IRT truck. The driver of that vehicle reportedly had a medical issue, leading to the crash. Matt went to the hospital with back pain.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 5, one of our road crew was directing traffic on northbound I-5 south of Woodland when a car crashed into their truck just before 9 a.m. According to the Washington State Patrol, the vehicle failed to merge right and struck the rear of our work truck, which had flashing arrows directing traffic to move right.

Both our worker and the driver of the other vehicle were taken to the hospital for evaluation. The WSP said the driver of the other vehicle was charged with negligent driving.
The driver of the black car failed to merge over at an I-5 work zone in Woodland, crashing into the back of our attenuator truck doing traffic control. Both our driver and the driver of the car went to the hospital.

These are just two of many incidents our crews regularly encounter. And we need your help to prevent them. Always focus and stay alert when operating a vehicle. Slowing down when you are near road workers also helps protect everyone's safety. Give them as much room as possible. Remember, the Move Over, Slow Down state law requires drivers to move over at least one lane whenever possible near emergency response or temporary work on highways and shoulders. Failure to do so can result in a $214 ticket, but even more importantly, can create dangerous conditions for road workers. If you can't move over for emergency or temporary work, the law states you should slow down to 10 mph under the posted speed limit as you pass crews.

We train with our roadway partners to be as efficient and safe as possible when clearing a crash or making emergency repairs. But we also ask that you do your part to help them help you, and let's keep everyone as safe as possible on the highways.