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When Driving Focus On Saving Lives

Justin Guinan had been an incident responder for ODOT for close to a year when he had his first major close call. He was responding to a multi-vehicle crash on I-5 when a distracted driver slammed into the back of his incident response truck (see photo). “The car hit where I would have been standing to pull out cones for traffic control. Fortunately for me, I had walked over to talk with another responder before going to get the cones. Otherwise, I might not be here today.”

Justin’s story is far from unique. Every year, hundreds of emergency responders experience close calls or are struck and either injured or killed while responding to traffic incidents.

Now, as ODOT’s Traffic Incident Management Program coordinator, Justin spends his days training fellow responders from all disciplines—and in particular law enforcement, fire and tow—in best practices for how to clear a scene safely and quickly. The goal is to reduce the risks posed by passing vehicles as effectively as possible while getting off the road and out of harm’s way as quickly as possible.

Drivers are key to saving lives

While training incident responders is critical, so too is getting the traveling public involved.

“We now have two different times of the year dedicated to building awareness of the dangers our responders face – and what all of us can do to help,” Guinan said. “One is National Move Over Day in October, and the other is next week.” The Federal Highway Administration, along with partners and responders around the nation, will mark National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, November 10-16.

Our 2019 theme is “TEAM Stands for Traffic Emergency Actions Matter: SAFETY IS A TEAM EFFORT!” That theme focuses on the fact that every person has a role in traffic incident response, including drivers. The response of a driver is just as important as the response of the person towing a vehicle, rescuing the trapped, healing the injured and investigating the incident.

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