Traffic responders work in one of the most hazardous environments – the highway. All too frequently, responders fall victim to the secondary incidents that occur as they attend to the original incident for which they were dispatched.

It has been estimated that about 40% of all law enforcement officers who perished in the line of duty died while responding to traffic accidents. These traffic accidents are also a major cause of death for firefighters, emergency medical personal, and tow operators, and they also impact the safety and mobility of road users.

Traffic incident management is emerging as a potential solution to address these safety and mobility needs and has been defined as the process of coordinating the resources of a number of different partner agencies and private sector companies to detect, respond to, and clear traffic incidents as quickly as possible while providing protection and safety to on-scene responders and the traveling public.

The application of traffic control devices typically used by road agencies and emergency responders is constantly evolving. This presentation focuses on the developing ways in which you can better protect the safety of on-scene responders and the traveling public during traffic incidents.

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices—MUTCD

The inclusion of Control of Traffic through Traffic Incident Management Areas is a new addition to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devises, Section 6I. It is in the MUTCD, Section 6I where the terms traffic incident and traffic incident management are defined.

A traffic incident is an emergency road user occurrence, a natural disaster, or other unplanned event that affects or impedes the normal flow of traffic.

A traffic incident management area is an area of a highway or roadway where temporary traffic controls are imposed by authorized officials in response to a road user incident, natural disaster, hazardous material spill, or other unplanned incident. It is a type of temporary traffic control zone and extends from the first warning device (such as an advance warning sign, lights on public safety vehicle, or cones) to the last temporary traffic control device or to a point where vehicles return to the original lane alignment and are clear of the incident.

Responders arriving at a traffic incident will need to estimate the magnitude of the traffic incident so that the expected time duration of the incident and the expected vehicle queue length can be estimated. Estimating the length of time and approximating the expected vehicle queue length will aid responders in determining the appropriate temporary traffic controls needed for the safety of all.

Traffic incident management is the process of coordinating the resources of police, fire, EMS, public works/traffic services and private towing companies to detect, respond to and clear traffic incidents as quickly as possible while:

  • Providing scene safety for all responders

  • Protecting the traveling public

Traffic Incident Classes

Traffic Incidents are identified as being major, intermediate, or minor.

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