One of the most recent Line Of Duty Deaths (LODDs) was a young volunteer firefighter in another state that died after being struck by a tractor-trailer, on an interstate. One of the most dangerous areas that firefighters, medics and police officers have to work is on the side of the many highways across this country. Some states have added laws to the books, which mandate that motorists must move over, when approaching emergency vehicles. On most major traffic corridors, departments are responding multiple apparatus, with the primary role of one unit being to set up a block for the apparatus and personnel working at the scene. I rode Truck 14 in Chester from 2006-2009, establishing a block on I-95 many times. I cannot tell you the number of near misses that occurred during those times. I consider tractor-trailer drivers to be some of the best drivers on the roads, but complacency or distractions cause the best to make mistakes.
I watch near misses occur practically everyday on roadways, basically because people are in too big of a hurry. These near misses become a big deal around accident scenes and road construction. Firefighters, medics and road crews are required to wear reflective vests and turn out gear, but when vehicles are traveling so fast that their reaction time is reduced, then all of the reflective clothing in the world won’t matter. Why do you think that road crews take extreme measures when blocking off roadways? Public safety workers and road crews must take extreme measures to protect themselves because it is obvious that some motorists just do not care.
So, what can you do? If at all possible, avoid an accident scene or construction zone. News stations give a pretty accurate traffic report numerous times each morning and evening. If you find yourself on the road, where an accident or construction is ongoing, then the first thing is to slow down when approaching the scene. Look and respond to police who may be directing traffic. You need to pay close attention because getting around things may be tight. If traffic is moving around an accident or construction zone, get as far over as possible, giving those working in the roadway the greatest berth possible. If it is not possible to move around the accident or construction zone, then stop until it is safe to proceed.
Far too many police officers, wrecker drivers, firefighters, medics and construction workers have been hit while working on or around roadways. Speed, complacency and a lack of good driving skills are all contributing factors. If the laws that other states have enacted about moving over for emergency workers are effective, then it needs to happen in every state. If each of us would do our part to keep these folks safe, then maybe a positive impact will occur. Also, I have seen the accidents caused by rubber-neckers to be worse than the initial accident. Pay attention!