Utah motorists reminded to slow down, move over for flashing lights on side of freeway
It’s Crash Responder Safety Week, a nationwide initiative to bring awareness to first responder safety
The sound of crunching metal punctured the air Monday as a heavy rescue team used the Jaws of Life to cut all four doors off a crashed sedan.
The responders communicated with each other and the passengers inside: "Breaking glass," "Cutting frame," and "It's going to get loud."
The demonstration by Unified Fire Authority, Utah Department of Transportation and Utah Highway Patrol kicked off Crash Responder Safety Week in Utah. Crash Responder Safety Week is a nationwide initiative to bring awareness to first responder safety, declared by Gov. Spencer Cox and followed by governors nationwide in 2022.
In the last year, 34 emergency responders nationally have been fatally struck by cars as they responded to scenes on the roadways, UHP Col. Michael Rapich said. He added that 15 UHP troopers have been hit in the last year as well, fortunately none fatal.
"These dedicated individuals put their lives on the line daily. ... We know (death) can happen and it's an ever-present risk that our ... first responders face ... every single time they're out on the freeway," Rapich said.
The safety week takes place in November to highlight ways for the public to help protect first responders as winter approaches, bringing holiday travels with it.
"Despite all of our training and safety measures that we put in place, we need your help. We need your collaboration to make sure that the safety of everyone in the crash scenes is the top priority that allows us, including the motorists, to return home to our loved ones," UHP Sgt. Eric Prescott said.
Prescott highlighted five ways drivers can help first responders in their efforts to help at crash scenes:
• Follow the "move over" law.
• Avoid distractions.
• Be patient.
• Follow instructions.
• Stay informed.
Follow the ‘move over’ law
"When you're approaching the scene, you need to slow down, reduce your speed and give us the time that we need in order to work. ... It creates a safety buffer for responders working on the roadside. It gives us the time and the space that we need to properly work and see," Prescott said.
The law requires motorists to move out of the adjacent lane when passing an emergency vehicle, or to slow down if the driver is unable to move over a lane.
More information about the law can be found on Utah Highway Patrol’s website.
Avoid distractions and be patient
"Focus on what you should be focused on: operating the motor vehicle. Put your phones away. Pay attention to where you're driving, focus on the road ahead. Don't focus on the scene as you drive past it," Prescott said. "We're doing everything we can. (Traffic Incident Management Systems) allows us to be able to effectively work the scene and move it off in a shorter amount of time, but we need you to be patient with us as we're doing that to make sure that we all go home at the end of the day," he added.
Follow instructions and stay informed
Crash scenes often have personnel directing drivers on where to go, which Prescott said drivers need to follow.
He added that drivers need to stay informed on weather, road conditions and potential crashes along their route.
The demonstration of tearing the car apart was to show everything first responders need to do to take care of any potential injuries the passengers inside may have suffered in the incident.
Unified Fire Authority's Benjamin Porter said responders do anything they can to ensure safety on the scene, including positioning fire trucks to block the path if necessary. But he emphasized that moving over and avoiding distractions will help the most, especially when snow begins to fall.