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Highway Safety Initiatives

National TIM Responder Training Courses

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

SSince mass production of motor vehicles commenced in the United States in the early 20th century, drivers have complained about traffic congestion as the number of vehicles steadily exceeded the ability of highways to accommodate them. Lack of roadway capacity prevents drivers from traveling at the speed limit, which in turn wastes precious fuel and lengthens trips, thereby depriving drivers of quality time and of money.

Traffic incidents cause about one-quarter of the congestion on U.S. roadways, and, for every minute that a freeway lane is blocked by an incident, four minutes of travel delay time results.1 An incident is defined in the Traffic Management Data Dictionary, published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, as “an unplanned randomly occurring traffic event that adversely effects normal traffic operations.”2 Work zones, which give rise to the same negative characteristics, are not incidents because they are planned events that still frustrate and delay drivers.

A secondary crash is an unplanned event—beginning at the time the primary incident is detected—where a collision that results from the original incident occurs either within the incident scene or within the queue, including in the opposite direction. The likelihood of a secondary crash increases by 2.8 percent for every minute that the primary incident remains a hazard, and secondary crashes alone are responsible for an estimated 18 percent of all freeway fatalities and 20 percent of all collisions.3

Traffic incidents, including secondary crashes, create danger to those responding to resolve them. For example, during a 25-year period (1987–2011), 283 law enforcement officers were struck and killed by vehicles; this averages out to almost one officer killed each month.4 Of those officers, 60 percent were “directing traffic, assisting motorists, etc.,” while the remaining 40 percent were involved in a “traffic stop, roadblock, etc.”5 Similarly, an average of one on-duty tow truck operator is killed every six days, amounting to more than 60 each year.6

Congress recognized the foregoing issues and has authorized the second Strategic Highway Research Program, which focuses on four areas: safety, renewal, reliability, and capacity.7 The reliability area is most pertinent to these issues and concentrates on “reducing congestion through incident reduction, management, response, and mitigation,” the achievement of which “will significantly improve travel time reliability for both people and freight.”8 To this end, the Transportation Research Board developed—and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) currently is implementing—two ambitious training courses to address traffic incident management (TIM), which is defined as “a planned and coordinated multidisciplinary process to detect, respond to, and clear traffic incidents so that traffic flow may be restored as safely and quickly as possible.”9 TIM is the key to reducing the incidence and severity of crashes and the congestion and frustration they create. 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),10 which the IACP has supported since 2007.11

The National TIM Responder Training Courses are an integral part of the FHWA’s Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative, one of the goals of which is to enhance roadway safety.12 The one-and-a-half day train-the-trainer course brings together TIM first responders from different disciplines, and these multidisciplinary instructors subsequently train—in four-hour classes—law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, towing and recovery operators, transportation and public works employees, and other TIM workers. Members of the IACP’s State and Provincial Police Directorate and of its Highway Safety Committee (HSC) assisted the FHWA in the design of these courses.

The interaction occurring between representatives of these various disciplines has promoted camaraderie among the attendees and has improved the overall understanding of the activities that other disciplines initiate. Once the reason that a specific activity is undertaken is understood by members of other disciplines, the mystique disappears and the execution of the task is appreciated and supported. Understanding often generates additional discussion, which results in more effective and efficient ways of resolving traffic incidents. Improved responses by TIM disciplines that cooperate and coordinate with each other expedite the handling of traffic incidents, reduce the time that responders actually spend on roadways, decrease incidences of secondary crashes, facilitate the restoration of the traffic flow, and eliminate congestion and motorists’ frustration. Since June 2012, the FHWA has trained 1,027 instructors who, in turn, have trained 1,083 first responders across the United States.13

Manage to Survive: Traffic Incident Management for First Responders, the 18-minute roll-call video produced last year by the IACP HSC’s TIM Subcommittee, succinctly summarizes the tenets upon which these courses were built and piques interest in TIM in general and in these courses in particular. It has been viewed more than 10,000 times since it was first released on October 1, 2012.14

These two FHWA courses are not cure-alls for all traffic incidents and the congestion, death and serious injury, and motorists’ frustration that these incidents produce. However, these courses constitute the first national TIM training that attempts to foster teamwork between first-responder disciplines in order to resolve more effectively, efficiently, and productively traffic incidents based upon the NUG.

For more information about these courses, email any of the following contacts in the FHWA’s Office of Transportation Operations:

1Federal Highway Administration, Office of Operations, Traffic Incident Management Handbook, by Nicholas Owens et al. for SAIC, FHWA HOP 10 013 (January 2010), 2, (accessed February 21, 2013).
2“Section 2. Review of Literature,” Office of Operations, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), Emergency Transportation Operations, March 31, 2009, quoting Traffic Management Data Dictionary, (accessed February 21, 2013).
3Owens et al., Traffic Incident Management Handbook, 2, 27, 58.
4U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS), Uniform Crime Reports, Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted [LEOKA] 2011, table 61, (accessed February 21, 2013); LEOKA 2001, table 28, (accessed February 21, 2013); LEOKA 1996, table 23, (accessed February 21, 2013).
6“Tow Truck Driver Killed on the Job,” WSVN-TV 7News, May 11, 2010, (accessed February 21, 2013).
7Transportation Research Board, “Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP 2): Reliability,” (accessed February 21, 2013).
9“Traffic Incident Management,” Office of Operations, FHWA, USDOT, (accessed February 21, 2013).
10National Traffic Incident Management Coalition, “National Unified Goal for Traffic Incident Management,” November 2007, (accessed February 21, 2013).
11Highway 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 21, 2013).
12“About Every Day Counts,” Message from the Administrator, (accessed February 21, 2013).
13FHWA Public Safety Program Manager Thomas V. Lane, email message to the author, February 11, 2013.
14This video is available on the IACP’s YouTube channel at (accessed February 21, 2013).

Please cite as:

Richard J. Ashton, "National TIM Responder Training Courses," Highway Safety Initiatives, The Police Chief 80 (April 2013): 112–113.



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXX, no. 4, April 2013. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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