Every minute of every day, law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services (EMS), public works, transportation, towing, and other responders work roadside to make roadways safe for all road users. These traffic incident responders put their lives at risk when clearing each of the nearly 7 million annual motor vehicle crashes or the broader range of incidents such as stalled vehicles or roadway debris.
The Carbondale Fire Department is teaming up with the Federal Highway Administration to share with you the following tips for what to do when you are approaching an emergency scene on the roadway, whether it's an accident, a disabled car, a weather-related issue, or a planned closure.
- If at all possible, avoid the area and take an alternate route. Do not make an illegal turn to avoid the incident, but instead plan a different route when you hear there is an issue.
- SLOW DOWN as you approach and pass the incident. Remain alert for unexpected occurrences, as this is a different situation than normal roadway driving.
- MOVE OVER any time you approach a stopped emergency vehicle. Move your vehicle over a lane away from the incident, as long as it is safe to do so. This gives first responders room to work on the incident.
- If no responders are yet on the scene and you have a hands-free cell phone, call 911 to report the incident. Note the location by mile marker and/or landmark so you can report it accurately.
- Look for and obey all temporary traffic control signs and direction from first responders, including lane closures. Temporary traffic control creates a safe work area for first responders to treat victims and remove damaged vehicles; motorist cooperation with traffic control is needed for the work area to be truly safe.
- Never attempt to go around an emergency scene on the shoulder, drive through it, or turn around to avoid it or the traffic queue. These actions put you, other motorists, and first responders at risk of death and injury.
- Do not take photos or video of the incident as you pass it and do not post on social media. This distracts you from driving, which may cause an accident. It is also disrespectful to the victims and their families, who are going through a traumatic experience. There have been situations where families of victims have found out their loved ones were injured or deceased from social media posts, rather than through an official notification from emergency services, who can provide needed support during the notification. Don’t put a family through the trauma of finding that out in a public forum.
- Do not pick up your cell phone to notify friends, family, or others of the emergency scene or that you will be delayed. Distracted driving kills 3,400 people every year and injures 390,000, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Don’t be one.
- Remain alert, even if you have to sit in traffic. Now is not the time to let your attention wander or use your cell phone. Unexpected events can happen at emergency incidents and you must be alert so you can react.