Read the most recent editor column from experts in law enforcement, fire services and roadway assistance fields.
Have You Ever Been a Target?
A great deal of my work here as your editor involves researching and writing about the highway safety problems which you and I face each and every day. You and I both know that it is tough out there on the highways and byways of our nation. It is my job to share some ways with you that can make your highway safety responses work a little bit safer.
Michigan Fire Department Highway Safety Effort
You and I have been on quite a journey. We have been seeking to make things safer for all of us who ply our trade on the highways and byways of the world. Yes I say world because our efforts here at Respondersafety.com have gone well beyond the borders of the United States.
Texas Police Step Up Enforcement of 'Move Over' Law for EMS Vehicles
About 700 people in Austin were ticketed last year for violating the Texas Move Over Act , which requires drivers to slow down or change lanes when passing parked emergency vehicles.
New Jersey Launches 'Move-Over' Law Campaign
It is indeed an honor to write about an effort which has taken shape in the State of New Jersey over the past several months. As you might recall, I wrote about attending the kick-off of our move-over law out on the New Jersey Turnpike early last year. Since that time a coalition has formed to bring the law to the public.
Missouri Move-Over Law
"In Missouri, when the officer gets out he has to position the vehicle, approach the vehicle and with that mindset he's gotta watch the traffic, he's also gotta watch the hands, and there maybe multiple occupants in the vehicle," Hull said. After a truck pulling a trailer rear-ended a patrol car and killed an officer, Missouri adopted the "Move Over Law.”
New York Police to Drivers: Move Over or Get a Ticket
It's not unusual to see someone pulled over on the Adirondack Northway. But now, when you see those flashing lights on the shoulder, if it's safe, you're supposed to move over.
Is it Us or is it Them?
This has not been a very good winter out there on the highways for the members of the fire and emergency services worlds. It has also been a winter to forget for our friends in the towing and highway labor industries. It seems as though I have been kept quite busy indeed posting the many line-of-duty deaths and struck-by incidents which have been happening across our nation and around the world. Like most of you, I have spent a winter fighting the effects of wind, snow, ice, and cabin fever. My solution to the many weather-related problems this year has been to park my carcass in a comfortable reclining chair opposite a really neat large-screen TV. I cannot tell you how many of my problems have been whisked away by a combination of hot coffee and the Turner Classic Movie channel. Of course, like many of you I have been summoned forth to my local fire station to provide the services demanded by emergencies in the Adelphia Fire Company service area. I have faced a combination of car wrecks, downed wire, carbon-monoxide detectors, fire alarms, and the like. My buddies and I have been called upon to make our way through the snow-covered highways and byways of our fire district. However, it was our good fortune the other day to be able to enjoy a couple of very rare 60 degree days during the middle of February. I spent some time out on the front porch in my 'thinking place' smoking a couple of cigars and enjoying some of the previously mentioned hot coffee. As I sat there watching the passing parade of traffic on our fairly busy county highway, a few thoughts began to bubble up within the confines of my smoke-induced thinking. I spent some time watching the cars as they approached the traffic light on the corner about 50 yards from my front door. I lost count on the number of people who were chattering away on the cell phones (in violation of state law). I noted a great many of them start to make the right turn at the entrance to my neighbor's parking lot. This is, of course, not the place, as the right turn is further down the road. But that did not stop these latter-day NASCAR drivers as they sped past their stopped fellow travelers. The passage of motor vehicles got me thinking. What is it about the interaction of people, traffic, and highway responders and workers that is causing so many people to be struck and killed? After a bit, a question came racing into my brain; a simple question indeed. With regard to incidents on the highway, is it the motorist or is it us? Hence the title of this column: Is it us or is it them? Let me suggest that there is sufficient blame on both sides of this equation. After working on this issue for well over a decade, I am here to tell you that there are still people on our side of the fence who fail to recognize this issue as a problem for them and their agency. Here are some points to consider: • How many fire, police, and EMS organizations still do not have highway safety training as part of their educational programs? • How many fire, police, and EMS organizations still do not have highway safety operational plans in place? • How many fire, police, and EMS organizations still do not have retro-reflective vests for their people? • How many fire, police, and EMS organizations still do not enforce the use of retro-reflective public safety vests for their staff? We here at the Emergency Response Safety Institute (ERSI) and Respondersafety.com are on the verge of a research project to assess the potential for educational programs for the general public. We do not want to move forward with the development of an actual educational package until we can get a handle on the extent of the problem. It is one thing to guess and another to know. Let me assure you that based upon my personal observations of the traffic out there on Monmouth County Route 524, somebody needs to teach someone something. As one who has spent a number of years ducking and dodging traffic on the local roads in my area, I am here to tell you that something must be done to create an awareness of the dangers of motor vehicle operation in work zones, whether they are of a temporary, emergency nature, or not. You and I need to do all that we can to attack this problem on both sides of the fence. How can we expect the public to watch out for us, if we fail to take all of the necessary precautions to protect ourselves? While we here at ERSI are working to develop educational programs for the public, we would urge you to train, prepare, and equip your people to operate as safely as possible out on the highways and byways of your operational area. You owe it to your people and their families to ensure that things are done in as safe a manner as possible. Remember, spring is not far away.
- The Holiday Season is Coming Your Way
Frustration and Success
It is sometimes extremely frustrating to work toward such a nebulous goal as preserving and protecting the lives of people who are working or operating on the highways and byways of our nation. Do not get me wrong. It is a tremendously important and laudable goal, it is just tough to keep on punching when we see little change on a day-to-day basis. All of us here at ResponderSafety.com know why we are doing what we do, and rest assured that we remain committed to making a difference. However, speaking for just two of us, Howard Cohen and I are spending a great deal of time each day recording the deaths and injuries which are happening on a continuing basis. Just when you start to sag a bit, some good news comes chugging across the screens of our computers. In one case, we experienced success in gaining a 'Move-Over' law in New Jersey. In another, we saw Howard Cohen's very own State of Maryland pass a 'Move Over' law. These are important successes and we pause to celebrate them as they occur. Another such moment took place in Pennsylvania during the week of October 9. A bill calling for longer prison sentences for those who kill or injure emergency responders in vehicle crashes is awaiting Gov. Ed Rendell's signature. The Sgt. Michael Weigand Act, named for an Adams County police officer who died on duty when a man crashed a pickup truck into his motorcycle, passed the Senate back in September. The bill unanimously passed the House concurrence vote and is headed for Governor Edward Rendell's signature. The bill provides courts with the discretion to add up to five years in prison to the sentence of anyone who kills an emergency responder in a crash. State Rep. Will Tallman, R-York/Adams was the legislator who sponsored the bill. Many supporters suggested that this was a critical addition to the law which plugged a gap in the existing legislation. Under the provisions of this new law, a judge could add up to two years to the prison sentence of someone convicted of seriously injuring an emergency responder or worker in an active construction zone. This is another important step in creating a public awareness of the danger which fire, EMS, police, highway workers, and tow truck drivers face each day. Now we all must work just a bit harder to get the word out about this legislation. A critical gap in our operation involves the creation of a public education program to get our message to the driving public in America. The Emergency Response Safety Institute is working on this issue. We will be performing the necessary research to provide a viable message which will then be disseminated through a variety of media outlets. The first piece of this critical effort was premiered in Delaware a couple of months ago. We created a short public safety announcement which it is hoped will convince the public to pay attention to us as we perform our respective duties out on the highways of America. The piece entitled " Slow Down – Move Over" was created through funding provided by the U.S. Fire Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice. The theme of our PSA is simple and our story only runs for 30 seconds. The message asks viewers to commit the following message to memory. They are asked to remember that "…When you see lights, vests, and reflectors, please give us some room. Please slow down and move over." This is an extremely important message which was put forward by actual emergency responders and highway safety workers in Delaware. This video can be viewed or downloaded by clicking on the link to it on the left side of our home page. You and I have to make these messages a part of our every day operations. As we move into the Fall driving season, we all need to pay attention to the problems which are caused by a combination of changing time periods, falling leaves, precipitation, and drivers who simply do not care about you and me. Let me suggest that you conduct a highway safety drill in the next month. You can go to our website and download the necessary information and programs. You can then tailor the drill to the needs of your district. Please take the time to train your people to work on the highway. I would hate to think that we did not do all we could to save a life.