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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

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

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several photos showing traffic incidents, road assistance, and law enforcement

Cover images courtesy of the Associated Press 2003 (left), © Mylightscapes| (center left), the Florida Department of Transportation (center right), and the San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (right).

December 2008

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration

Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

U.S. Departement of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE.
Washington, DC 20590

December 31, 2008

Dear Transportation Professionals and Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Partners:

Investments in traffic incident management (TIM) capabilities save lives and reduce congestion. Nationwide, TIM efforts are credited with reducing annual delay by 129.5 million hours with an associated cost savings of $2.5 billion. As part of the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) mission to "Keep America Moving," we strive to support State and local efforts to safeguard the motoring public and those responding to traffic incidents while reducing congestion and traffic delays resulting from an incident on the road. Safe, quick clearance of highway incidents—a foundation of both mature and developing TIM programs—depends on strong, coordinated multi-agency operations.

States with Move Over Laws Currently Enacted. Map. States with no Move Over laws: Hawaii, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Maryland. All other states have Move Over laws.

With more vehicles on the Nation's highways, traffic incidents become increasingly more frequent and life threatening to motorists and responders dispatched to help. Since 2003, 59 law enforcement, 12 fire and rescue, and 54 maintenance personnel died after being struck by vehicles along the highway. Moreover, the Towing and Recovery Association of America (TRAA) reports a loss upward of 100 towing operators in the line of service annually (2008). The occurrence of responder injury or "near misses" is much higher. Statistics associated with motorist death and injuries are even more astounding. In a five-year study conducted in North Carolina, 1,300 abandoned vehicles were struck, resulting in 47 fatality crashes and over 500 injuries. In 2005, 500 fatalities were reported nationally as a result of incidents occurring on the roadway shoulder and median. In response, many State and local governments have adopted three types of general legislation constituting Quick Clearance Laws—"Move Over," "Driver Removal," and "Authority Removal"—to support concurrent safe, quick clearance operations.

Although a number of States currently have one or more of these laws in place, the legislation varies in scope, wording, coverage, and sanctions. FHWA produced this document to support State and local efforts to improve Quick Clearance Law implementation. Researchers found that the most successful and consistently enforced Quick Clearance Laws had: (1) carefully crafted statutory language reflecting quick clearance objectives and (2) State encouragement of government and industry partnerships that provide united support for safe, quick clearance objectives and laws. This document supplies States with tools to address arguments against such laws and examples of Move Over, Driver Removal, and Authority Removal laws that work.

We hope you find this material helpful in your efforts to understand, establish, or strengthen Quick Clearance Laws. Moreover, we encourage comments and contributions to these primers and other FHWA traffic incident management documents. Please feel free to contact our Emergency Transportation Operations Team at with suggestions for future revisions.

Moving the American Economy


Jeffrey A. Lindley
Associate Administrator for Operations


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The United States Government assumes no liability for its contents or use thereof.

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Quality Assurance

The U.S. Department of Transportation provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. USDOT periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and processes to ensure continuous quality improvement. This material is based upon work supported by the Federal Highway Administration under contract number DTFH61-06-D-0007. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Highway Administration.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

December 2008