JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Emergency response agencies across Missouri now have a goal of clearing an accident scene on state highways in less than 90 minutes.
A handful of other states already have something similar in place, like Washington, Florida, and Tennessee. The goal is to have the roadway clear 90 minutes after a first responder arrives on the scene.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) say this is doable, but for serious accidents, it could take longer. Tow truck drivers across the state saw they are on board with the new initiative.
“It’s different but it can be done,” said Michael Scott, owner of Scotty’s Carriage Works in Cameron, Missouri. “Depending on whether it’s a truck wreck or an automobile accident, we can quickly grab something and relocate it to the shoulder and now we’ve reopened that part of the road.”
Scott has been a tow truck driver in northwest Missouri for more than 60 years. He the new goal won’t be hard to achieve unless it’s a larger crash.
“So, it’s mainly those major truck wrecks, mainly fuel spills or something, fire, or a fatality that takes longer,” Scott said.
We’ve all been there, driving down the highway and all of a sudden, you’re stuck in traffic for hours, waiting for the accident to clear. Now, a new agreement in Missouri between emergency response agencies and first responders.
“That we can clear a crash and get the road back open to condition within 90 minutes,” MoDOT Deputy Director Ed Hassinger said. “A lot of time on simpler crashers, we do it way quicker than that.”
On average, MoDOT responds to 6,000 traffic accidents a month. Last year alone, there were more than 131,000 traffic accidents in Missouri.
“The Open Road Agreement will help strengthen the joint efforts of Missouri’s emergency responders to quickly and safely clear out highways of these incidents and get traffic back to normal,” Hassinger said. “There’s always going to be that case with circumstances that are going to require longer times.”
Last year, MSHP said distracted driving was the cause for 87 fatal accidents, 4,329 injury crashes, and 11,229 property damage crashes. Scott said over his dozens of years as a tow truck driver, each year he sees more and more crashes due to distracted driving.
“Face it, there’s a lot more stuff going on in the car,” Scott said. “If you want to change the radio, if you want to change the heating or air conditioning, it’s not that you can just reach over and turn a dial, you’re touching a screen.”
This new initiative, the Missouri Open Roads Agreement, goes along with Missouri’s Move Over Law, requiring drivers to slow down and move over for emergency vehicles. Last year, MSHP wrote 277 tickets along with 582 warnings to drivers who did not obey the Move Over law.
“When I pick that driver up that’s broken down on the side of the road, they’re scared once they are on the side of the road and they say, I had no idea how dangerous it was until I broke down,” Scott said. “As we say, the D [distracted] driver is the one that’s killing most of us out there on the road.”
According to AAA, a tow truck driver is hit and killed while on the job every sixth day. Scott thinks the new agreement could save lives.
“The less time we are out there on the road, the better chances are that we are going to get to go home and see our family that day,” Scott said.
MSHP’s Major Crash Investigation Unit said accident reconstruction can take longer to clear.
“However, we will not compromise our evidence at a crash scene to meet 90 minutes,” MSHP Lieut. Brian Daniel said. “There’s a lot of variables we have to take into consideration.”
Daniel, who oversees MSHP’s field operations bureau and oversees the unit, said technology helps the investigation move quicker. Compared to previous years, the crash investigators now use UAV, unmanned aerial vehicles, similar to a drone, to help lay out the area for the investigation.
This agreement kicks off Crash Responder Safety Week across the nation, which reminds drivers to be responsible.