Gathering at LifePoint Church in Cartersville, the Cartersville/Bartow County TIM Team, one of 11 on the Metro Atlanta TIME Task Force, discussed clearing the backup caused by accidents on area roadways.
Georgia State Patrol Post 3 Commander Sgt. Kyle Tanner kicked off the meeting talking about the queue — or the traffic backup — and how to deal with it, whether through alternative routes, message boards or rerouting traffic.
“That has become a big issue for us — secondary incidents, when we have our primary we are dealing with, what is happening secondary? With this queue and with the backup, we’ve got to think about clearing it. We’ve got to think about getting to the back of the queue, getting some kind of advanced warning up,” he said.
The lack of an advanced warning has major safety implications for those agencies responding to traffic crashes.
“Two years ago, we had 14 law enforcement officers, 12 firefighters and 52 towers killed. ... No advanced warning, nothing, if you’re not concerned about the queue. And we’re losing our people on the street and on the interstates because we’re not trying to do something about the queue,” said Delcan Incident Management Specialist Capt. Rory Howe. “You’ve got to remember the queue is imperative that this thing get resolved because, if not, we get problems. We get more issues upstream.”
Those safety concerns increase the longer personnel remain on scene.
“For every one minute that we remain on scene when we could have cleared, our chances go up by 1 percent of being hit,” Howe said.
One of those who knows firsthand about the hazards of advanced warning at a traffic accident is EMS Director Kevin Garren.
In 2000, Garren was working a wreck on Mission Road when the driver of a Chevy Suburban topped a sharp hill and struck the rear of a Ford Explorer that was involved in a secondary crash at an accident scene.
Garren and the driver of the Explorer were standing in front of the Explorer at the time of impact. The two went to the ground and the SUV went over the top of them. The only injuries sustained were by Garren — six stitches in his elbow.
“Accidents happen within about a tenth of a second. ... This was before we had TIMs and before we started educating ourselves. We just went out there and did our jobs ... Looking back on it, if we had put somebody at the top of that hill, to divert traffic or slow traffic down, that would have moved things a lot better,” he said. “Now that I’m director, ... I’ve got 70-plus people — full-time and part-time people — out there every day on the interstates, on the county roads or in the city. It scares me to death.”