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ResponderSafety.com is brought to you by the Emergency Responder Safety Institute. ResponderSafety.com is developed and supported by public safety leaders nationwide. Click here to read Mission...

Editors Column

We Are Chipping Away at the Highway Safety Problem

Friday, February 20, 2009

It seems hard to believe that we here at Respondersafety.com have been laboring in the vineyards of the highway safety problem for more than ten years now.  Many times my associates and I have paused to ponder the impact of our work.  It is difficult to assess what we have done.   How can anyone ever prove the events, injuries, and deaths which have not occurred because of what we have done since the first Highway Safety Summit back in 1998?

 

Let me now share a bit of reality with you, in order to drive home why we are working so hard here to educate people about highway safety.  A recent incident in my own county has brought home the message that emergency service workers can be struck any place and anytime without warning. 

 

Mr. John Drucker, a member of the Middletown, NJ Fire Department sent me an email just the other day mentioning that he had been struck by a motorist while directing traffic on one of this district's busiest highways. I asked him to give me a call so that we could discuss what had occurred.  I was truly astounded by the manner in which his story played out.

 

It seems that the pumper he was driving had about 1,000 feet of large-diameter hose blown out of its bed by the high winds which were buffeting our area on Thursday February 12.  After moving the pumper off to the right side of the road, he proceeded to go back behind his crew, who was trying to reload the hose, and warn people of the problem, and direct them around the pumper.

 

As he was directing people around the stopped fire pumper, he was concerned about the volume of traffic and, because of that he was paying close attention to the on-coming traffic. What he failed to notice was that there was an exit behind him from a local supermarket parking lot. 

 

The first indication he had that anything was wrong was when a car bumped into him and pulled over to the curb.  Rather than asking him if he was alright, the operator of the vehicle jumped out and began berating him for hitting her car with the flare he was using to direct the traffic. 

 

The driver demanded that a police officer be called so that she could charge the firefighter with denting her car.  Of course the police were summoned.  However, things did not play out the way the driver thought they would.  She was cited for striking John Drucker.  Unfortunately, this matter will probably end up in court.

 

Fortunately, John's only injury is a deep bruise on the finger of the hand where he was holding the flare.  I assured him that he was most fortunate indeed.  I also wished him well in the future.  This is one that Billy Goldfeder would truly call a close-call, even though I would classify it as a "struck-by" incident.  However, in spite of this New Jersey incident there are indications that what we are doing here at Respondersafety.com is beginning to pay dividends.

 

In a number of recent posts to our site's 'Move-Over' section we showcased the results of Florida's review of their highway deaths.  Their highway death rate was the lowest since 2000.  They are suggesting that this is important even though the rate has dropped only slightly, because the population of the state has grown by 2.8 million people in the last nine years.

 

It is the conclusion of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) that one of the factors in this reduction is the heightened enforcement of the state's move-over law.  We here at Respondersafety.com have been pushing for every state to have such a piece of 'over-over' legislation.

 

I am well-aware of the public relations campaign which the FHP has pushed over the past few years.  Each time I have gassed up in Florida over the past two years I have noted the public relations message which is located on every gasoline pump in the stations I have visited.  You cannot get gasoline without being exposed to the message.

We here in New Jersey have finally gotten our own 'Move-Over' statute.  It was signed into law by our Governor last month.  We are now the 44th state to be so protected.

Now we must begin the difficult process of educating the public about this new piece of protective legislation.  As hard as it was to get this billed passed and sign, it will be much more difficult to get people to understand that it applies to them too.  Oh well, we shall go to work on this one in the coming months.

 

So it is in the world of highway safety.  There are wins and losses, as well as peaks and valleys.   It is our intention to soldier on.  We owe a debt to all who have been killed out there on the highways and by-ways of our great nation.  We shall not fail them.

 
 

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