COLUMBUS — Ohio is using a federal program to teach thousands of police, firefighters, tow-truck operators, and other emergency responders to clear highway crash scenes more safely and efficiently.
The Federal Highway Administration trained instructors who are now teaching others — including law enforcement, transportation workers, and coroners — to improve how they work together at crash scenes and to get disabled vehicles out of the roadway faster.
The traffic incident management training is intended to decrease the time drivers spend sitting in traffic and the potential that a situation escalates with secondary crashes and injuries to responders or travelers.
“It’s communication, cooperation, and coordination,” said Al Phillips, the Ohio Department of Transportation’s emergency operations coordinator.
Nearly 2,900 Ohio responders have been trained in recent months, according to ODOT and the Ohio Highway Patrol. They aim to train thousands more this year.
The training encourages them to use common sense and good judgment to protect public safety while restoring traffic flow as quickly as possible, Mr. Phillips said.
If a disabled truck is blocking a multilane road in rush-hour traffic, for example, the training would have responders consider wheth-er the vehicle could be safely pushed to one side and retrieved later instead of waiting for a tow and further blocking heavy traffic, patrol Capt. Roger Hannay said.
About 20 states are using the training program at varying levels, and Ohio is among the leaders in deploying it, said Doug Hecox, a highway administration spokesman.
The government expects all states to be involved within about a year, he said.
“The more we can keep highways operating efficiently and safely, the better,” he said. “Nobody likes traffic jams.”
The training is helping to re-energize an Ohio crash-management program called QuickClear that was launched about a decade ago but grew stagnant after some initial training, said Captain Hannay, chairman of the Ohio QuickClear committee with Mr. Phillips.
Mr. Phillips said it’s being put into practice with noteworthy results, including what he deems the most efficiently handled crash he’s seen in a three-decade career.
In that case near Mansfield last year, a traffic crash that was serious and required a medical helicopter closed I-71 for only 20 minutes because the responders had been through the training.
The program is free for the trainees because the federal government pays for instructor training and materials and the state allocated funding to cover such related costs as brochures.