By Major David A. Salmon, Director of Traffic Services, New York State Police, Albany, New York
ver the years, traffic congestion has become an increasingly persistent and pressing concern. Vehicle backups not only cause serious delays and result in substantial losses (such as lost work hours, missed flights, or cargo arriving late) but often lead to secondary collisions. Additionally, research has demonstrated that the longer law enforcement personnel are at the scene of a major incident, the greater their chances are of being struck. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that agencies across the United States are more eager than ever to clear traffic incidents as quickly as possible.
The U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) defines “quick clearance” as the practice of rapidly and safely removing temporary obstructions—including disabled or wrecked vehicles, debris, and spilled cargo (including hazardous material cargo, using appropriate precautions)—from the roadway. The FHWA reports that quick clearance practices reduce annual delay by 129.5 million hours, with an associated cost savings of $2.5 billion.1
The New York State Police (NYSP) created the Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Detail in 2008 to speed the clearance of major traffic crashes, reduce congestion and secondary collisions, provide more targeted enforcement in crash-prone areas, and fulfill the mandates of New York’s Work Zone Safety Act of 2005.2 TIM Teams, as they are known, are tasked with managing major traffic incidents and conducting targeted traffic enforcement efforts, with a special emphasis in and around major active work zones.
TIM Team troopers have undergone vast training in auto theft, motorcycle enforcement, commercial vehicle enforcement, criminal interdiction, fraudulent documents, targeted traffic enforcement strategies (covering such issues as speed and aggressive driving, impaired driving, unbuckled operators/passengers, and work zone enforcement), and traffic incident management. In addition, every member of the detail is now North American Standard Truck Inspection (NASTI) Level III certified to conduct inspections, allowing them to provide valuable assistance to the NYSP’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit (CVEU) and to their respective troops.
TIM Team members analyze crash data to help guide their enforcement efforts and use the latest technology (such as laser, radar, license plate recognition, tint meters, and tire deflation devices) to enforce the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Laws (NYSVTL). One hundred TIM troopers are deployed statewide, and are assigned to one of nine troop-based teams. TIM Detail supervisors work with local police, fire, and emergency medical services; tow operators; and other traffic incident responders to improve the coordination of emergency responses and apply the concepts of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) to the traffic environment. In addition, the NYSP TIM Detail strives to achieve the three objectives set out in the National Unified Goal: responder safety; safe, quick clearance; and prompt, reliable, interoperable communications. This dedicated-team approach is intended not only to improve the safety of the broader roadway system year-round but also to increase safety in New York’s highway work zones.
Work Zone Crashes
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the roughly 41,059 traffic fatalities that occurred in 2007, more than 800 took place in work zones. The FHWA reports that work zone fatalities increased by nearly 50 percent between 1997 and 2004. FHWA statistics from 2007 also reveal that four out of five work zone fatalities were motorist victims (not construction workers) and that there is one work zone fatality every 10 hours (over two a day) and one work zone injury every 13 minutes (about 110 a day).3
Given that work zone safety is a roadway safety concern, the Work Zone Safety Act was passed in 2005 in response to a work zone crash on Interstate 81 near Binghamton, New York, that killed three construction workers.4 The act called for a strategy of active enforcement in major highway construction work zones to protect workers.
In accordance with this act, fines for speeding in a work zone are doubled, and convictions of two or more speeding violations in a work zone now result in a suspended driver’s license. In 1994, one ticket for work zone speeding (NYSVTL 1180-f) was issued by the NYSP; by comparison, an astounding 12,316 NYSVTL 1180-f citations were issued by TIM Team members from June 2008 (the inception of the TIM Detail) through the end of the 2008 calendar year.
Furthermore, since creation of the TIM Detail, a total of 45,914 citations were issued in and around work zone areas in 2008. This is more than double the number issued by the NYSP in 2007 for the same time period (17, 817). The persistence, dedication, and presence of NYSP TIM Team troopers in work zones are undoubtedly having an effect on potential violators.
The TIM Detail has been, and will continue to be, committed to enforcing New York’s vehicle and traffic statutes vigorously as well as to clearing roadways to ensure the safe and efficient flow of traffic. ?
1FHWA, Traffic Incident Management Quick Clearance Laws: A National Review of Best Practices, December 2008, 4, http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop09005/quick_clear_laws.pdf (accessed June 23, 2009).
2“State Police Creates Statewide Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Detail,” WBNG News, July 22, 2008, http://www.wbng.com/news/local/25759829.html (accessed June 23, 2009).
3”Work Zone Safety Fact Sheet,” FHWA Safety, http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/facts_stats/ (accessed June 24, 2009).
4Josh Cable, “New York Governor Signs Work Zone Safety Bill,” EHS Today, July 26, 2005, http://ehstoday.com/news/ehs_imp_37705/ (accessed June 23, 2009).