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Traffic Incident Management Quick Clearance Laws:
A National Review of Best Practices

This publication may contain dated technical, contact, and link information.


Implementation Strategies

As mentioned previously, the intent of this report was to better support Quick Clearance Law implementation efforts by: (1) preparing States to respond to questions regarding the necessity of Quick Clearance legislation by documenting common motivations for and impediments to implementation; and (2) identifying examples from existing State Move Over, Driver Removal, and Authority Removal legislation that serve to both support and challenge successful incident management operations.

Through this investigation, two key things were observed to facilitate Quick Clearance Law implementation efforts including:

The remainder of this report describes recommended content, language, and associations that may lead to effective implementation of Move Over, Driver Removal and Authority Removal laws. This report concludes with a description of the potential beneficial synergy resulting from combined Quick Clearance Law implementation and describes interim measure to support Quick Clearance objectives prior to statutory enactment.

Carefully Crafted Statutory Content and Language

Although a number of States currently have one or more Quick Clearance Laws in place, observed variability in the existence, wording, and coverage of this legislation challenges transferability between States and may challenge the effectiveness of the law in meeting Quick Clearance objectives related to enhanced safety and congestion relief.

To enhance the potential for Quick Clearance Law effectiveness, recommendations related to statutory content and language for Move Over, Driver Removal, and Authority Removal laws are provided below.

Move Over Laws

Move Over laws require drivers approaching a scene where emergency responders are present to either change lanes when possible and/or reduce speed.

The most effective Move Over laws:

Driver Removal Laws

Driver Removal laws require that vehicles involved in typically minor traffic incidents - with no apparent physical injury and/or minor property damage - be moved out of the travel lanes to a safe location where drivers can exchange information and/or wait for law enforcement assistance.

The most effective Driver Removal laws:

Authority Removal Laws

Authority Removal laws clarify the authority and responsibility of pre-designated public agencies to clear damaged or disabled vehicles and spilled cargo from the roadway to prevent the occurrence of secondary incidents and to allow normal traffic flow to resume. Authority Removal laws typically provide indemnification for these agencies if removal duties are performed in good faith and without gross negligence.

The most effective Authority Removal laws:

When drafting proposed legislation, one approach is to include a comprehensive list of provisions with the recognition that some provisions may be removed during the bargaining process. Public agency management or administrative personnel should establish early working relationships with legislative officials, and may consider reviewing neighboring State legislations for consistency and gathering data on the effectiveness of such laws once passed to strengthen the justification for such legislation.

Fostered Agency and Industry Partnerships

Agency and industry partnerships that provide demonstrated, united support for safe, Quick Clearance objectives can significantly enhance the ability to advance and enact related legislation.

Key partnerships and constituents in support of Move Over legislation include:

Key partnerships and constituents in support of Driver Removal legislation include:

Key partnerships and constituents in support of Authority Removal legislation include:

Unless a strong working relationship has already been established among the various constituents, the move towards formal Quick Clearance legislation may require a two-phased approach: (1) educating and achieving consensus among constituents and (2) educating and promoting Quick Clearance to legislators.

Synergy through Combined Quick Clearance Law Implementation

Although each type of legislation considered in this investigation has the potential to offer significant safety- and delay-related benefit, synergistic benefits also may be realized through combined Quick Clearance Law implementation.

For example, the combined implementation of Driver and Authority Removal laws – either individually or within the same statute – shifts the responsibility of initial incident response to the driver for a majority of incidents but retains vehicle/cargo removal authority by public agencies should the driver be unwilling or unable to comply. This combination alleviates the burden on law enforcement or other first responders to clear the incident if drivers are willing and able to take appropriate action but does not compromise the responsibility of public agencies to ensure a safe and efficient roadway.

Public education efforts for Quick Clearance Laws could be performed concurrently, increasing the overall cost-effectiveness of these efforts. A significant public information campaign is underway with a focus on Move Over laws and heightened sensitivity to responder safety. Public service announcements, brochures, websites, etc. could easily address multiple Quick Clearance Laws simultaneously without threat of overload or distraction since each of these laws is related with common objectives related to safe, Quick Clearance.

Interim Measures

Interagency agreements and memoranda of understanding can be an effective interim approach to formalizing Quick Clearance strategies and can provide a basis for pursuing future related Quick Clearance legislation.

A key agreement supporting Quick Clearance efforts is an "Open Roads Policy" that binds agencies to Quick Clearance by setting implied or explicit goals for clearing traffic incidents from the roadway. Examples include Florida's "Open Roads Policy," Georgia's "Open Roads Policy," Maryland's "Removal of Vehicles from Roadway Interagency Agreement," New Hampshire's "Quick Clearance for Safety and Mobility Interagency Memorandum of Understanding," Tennessee's "Urgent Clearance of Highway Incidents and Safety at Incident Scenes Interagency Memorandum of Understanding," and Wisconsin's "Interagency Freeway Incident Clearance Policy Statement."

By entering into initial interagency agreements and memoranda of understanding, public agencies not only have the opportunity to draft content and language that may eventually be included in Quick Clearance legislation, but to test that content and language in practice to determine whether or not the intended Quick Clearance goals of the agreement are being met. Based on findings, the content and language for proposed Quick Clearance legislation can be modified accordingly.

These initial interagency agreements and memoranda of understanding also serve to confirm consensus for Quick Clearance objectives and strengthen interagency relations, particularly between transportation and law enforcement agencies. A demonstrated, united alliance between key State agencies can greatly enhance the advancement of Quick Clearance legislation and support attainment of Quick Clearance objectives related to safety and congestion relief.

December 2008
FHWA-HOP-09-005

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