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Highway Safety Initiatives

New Traffic Incident Management Subcommittee

By Richard J. Ashton, Chief of Police (Retired), Frederick, Maryland; and Grant/Technical Management Manager, IACP

e all have been stopped in our tracks and frustrated on one level or another by a crash not involving us that occurred between where our trip began and where we expected it to end. As a consequence, we may have been late for work, a medical appointment, picking up our children at the day care provider’s, the long-awaited flight to our vacation destination, or cheering on our children at a soccer match. While we were grateful we were not involved in the initial crash, we still were not all that appreciative of being held hostage in stopped traffic for a lengthy period of time or of being involved in a secondary crash. Secondary crashes are responsible for an estimated 18 percent of all freeway fatalities and 20 percent of all collisions.1 Once the initial crash had been cleared and traffic once again was moving, we still had to face approximately four minutes of recovery time for every one minute that a freeway lane was blocked.2

According to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD), “[a] traffic incident is an emergency road user occurrence, a natural disaster, or other unplanned event that affects or impedes the normal flow of traffic,”3 and crashes, stalled vehicles, roadway debris, and spilled cargo account for about one-quarter of all nonrecurring congestion.4 The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) defines “Traffic Incident Management (TIM) [as] a planned and coordinated process by multiple public agencies and private sector partners to detect, respond to, and remove traffic incidents and restore traffic capacity as safely and quickly as possible.”5

The three fundamental principles upon which TIM is based—responder safety; safe, quick incident clearance; and prompt, reliable, interoperable communications—are embodied in the National Unified Goal (NUG),6 which the IACP has supported since 20077 and reaffirmed in 2010, except for its continued opposition to the inclusion of “typical traffic incident management applications” in the MUTCD.8

The IACP has a vested interest in responder safety. Law enforcement alone averaged one officer struck and killed by a vehicle each month between 1993 and 2009.9 The fire service had five firefighters killed in “struck by” incidents last year, which accounted for about 6 percent of firefighter deaths in 2010.10 An average of 25 highway workers were struck and killed by vehicles each month in 2008 and 2009.11 The FHWA’s mandate that workers on all public roads wear high-visibility safety apparel was a significant step toward improving the safety of those required to perform duties on highways.12

The IACP and the FHWA entered into a cooperative agreement whereby the IACP Highway Safety Committee (HSC) formed the TIM Subcommittee to study traffic incidents with an eye toward resolving them more effectively and quickly through the application of the NUG principles and the Incident Command System.13 HSC Chair, Assistant Commissioner Earl M. Sweeney, appointed Chief Daniel G. Sharp, of the Oro Valley, Arizona, Police Department and an HSC member, the TIM Subcommittee chair. Commissioner Sweeney and Chief Sharp sought members from around the country, as well as from multiple disciplines, to seek strategies to mitigate the danger inherent to everyone on the scene of traffic incidents, the secondary crashes that occur while the longer initial incidents remain unresolved, and the inconvenience associated with them. The following have accepted appointments to the TIM Subcommittee:

  • Chief Grady T. Carrick, Regional Commander, Florida Highway Patrol
  • Captain Susan H. Culin, Commander, Traffic Division, Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Department

  • Commissioner Joseph A. Farrow, California Highway Patrol and HSC Vice Chair
  • Chief Douglas P. Forsman, Champaign, Illinois, Fire Department
  • Lieutenant Colonel Jack P. Hegarty, Assistant Director, Highway Patrol Division, Arizona Department of Public Safety
  • Chief Brian N. Kozak, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Police Department, and an HSC member
  • Brian W. Purvis, P.E., Traffic Incident Management Engineer, North Carolina Department of Transportation

The subcommittee held its inaugural meeting, which was hosted by Commissioner Farrow and the California Highway Patrol, in December 2010, in Sacramento, California. It met again last month in Alexandria, Virginia, in conjunction with the HSC’s 2011 Agenda Screening Meeting and already is developing a script for a training video, which may be produced in tandem with a model policy to facilitate training. The video will debut at the 119th Annual IACP Conference in San Diego, California, next year.

The IACP Technology Center is hosting the TIM web page14 on which the TIM Subcommittee’s roster, its meeting minutes, useful TIM materials, and links to allied websites are located. Resources on the web page will be current and ever-expanding.

Subcommittee members are actively planning TIM workshops for the 118th Annual IACP Conference in Chicago, Illinois, in October 2011, as well as for this year’s meetings of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the Towing and Recovery Association of America.

The HSC views the TIM Subcommittee as an excellent opportunity to join with other disciplines to explore the myriad challenges that highway workers face daily as they exert their best efforts to resolve traffic incidents. Hopefully, the TIM Subcommittee will identify more effective and efficient means to deal with these incidents to better ensure workers’ safety and to diminish the frustration of—and the very real danger to—all highway users. ■


1Nicholas Owens et al., Traffic Incident Management Handbook, FHWA HOP 10 013 (January 2010), 58, (accessed February 15, 2011).
2Ibid., 2.
3Federal Highway Administration, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (2009), 726, (accessed February 15, 2011).
4Nicholas Owens et al., Traffic Incident Management Handbook, 8.
5“Traffic Incident Management,” Office of Operations, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, (accessed January 24, 2011).
6National Traffic Incident Management Coalition, National Unified Goal for Traffic Incident Management, November 2007, (accessed February 15, 2011).
7Highway Safety Committee, “Contingent Support of the National Unified Goal for Traffic Incident Management,” IACP Resolution adopted at the 114th Annual Conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (New Orleans, Louisiana, 2007), (accessed February 815, 2011).
8Highway Safety Committee, “Quick Clearance of Roadway Incidents,” IACP Resolution adopted at the 117th Annual Conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (Orlando, Florida, 2010), 12–13, (accessed January 25, 2011).
9FBI, Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted 2009, October 2010, table 61, (accessed February 15, 2011); and FBI, Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted 2000, November 2001, table 28, (accessed February 15, 2011).
10U.S. Fire Administration, Year-to-Date Summary Statistics (Provisional), On-Duty Firefighter Fatalities in the United States: Date Range 1/1/2010 to 12/31/2010 (January 2011), (accessed February 15, 2011).
11Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, “National Census of Fatal Occupation Injuries in 2009 (Preliminary Results),” news release, August 19, 2010, (accessed February 15, 2011).
12FHWA, MUTCD (2009), 564–566.
13Ibid., 726.
14“Traffic Incident Management (TIM),” International Association of Chiefs of Police, (accessed February 15, 2011).

Please cite as:

Richard J. Ashton, "New Traffic Incident Management Subcommittee," Highway Safety Initiatives, The Police Chief 78 (April 2011): 132–134.

Click to view the digital edition.



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVIII, no. 3, April 2011. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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