Federal Highway Administration statistics show that three vehicle crashes with injuries occur every minute in the United States. Even worse, an incident scene can surprise unsuspecting or inattentive drivers, which can lead to a secondary incident that is frequently worse than the first.
Case in point: In March 2013, six volunteer firefighters were injured—one fatally—when a semi lost control and hit three emergency vehicles at the scene of a multiple-vehicle accident on Interstate 39 in McLean County, Illinois.The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) places high priority on improving the safety of police, fire, and other emergency personnel, as well as the driving public, at the scene of a traffic incident. Accordingly, with the collaboration of the Illinois Center for Transportation (ICT), IDOT sponsored a study, “Development of a Highway Incident Management Operational and Training Guide” (R27-064). The project was directed by an IDOT Technical Review Panel chaired by Geno Koehler, Permit Unit Chief for IDOT. The research team was led by Huaguo Zhou, associate professor of transportation engineering, Auburn University (formerly at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville); and Ryan Fries, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at SIUE.
That research culminated in a traffic incident management training curriculum and guide that focuses on keeping responders safe, preventing secondary incidents, and reducing fatalities.
In a follow-up study “Development of a Highway Safety Incident Management Operations and Training Guide—Phase II,” (R27-118) Zhou and Fries developed a web-based version of the training. The interactive program simulates various scenarios to help responders determine the safest course of action and receive instant feedback on their decisions. Geno Koehler also chaired the Technical Review Panel for the second phase project.
Principal investigator Ryan Fries says that developing online training was critical. “Some first responders can’t attend in-class training sessions, so the online modules provide an opportunity for them to learn important safety practices for managing traffic incidents on our roads. The training will be available online from anywhere at any time, without the recurring costs of trainers and facilities.”
According to Koehler, the benefits of the training are clear: “Improved practices increase safety along Illinois roadways—creating quicker responses to crashes and other incidents, cutting down on lane restrictions, and reducing secondary crashes.” In addition to improving safety, the training is expected to improve communication, coordination, and cooperation among emergency responders throughout the State of Illinois.
The online course, which contains 11 interactive modules, is available at http://www.ildottraining.org. Each module lasts between 15 and 30 minutes.
Posted September 16, 2014