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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.


Introduction

Quick Clearance is 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. Intended to enhance motorist and responder safety, as well as reduce congestion and delay, three types of general legislation constituting "Quick Clearance Laws" have been identified to support concurrent Quick Clearance operations:

  • Move Over Laws require drivers approaching a scene where emergency responders are present to either change lanes when possible and/or reduce speed.
  • 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.
  • 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 (an incident that occurs as a result of an earlier incident) 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.

Although a number of States currently have one or more of these laws in place, observed variability in the existence, wording, and coverage of Quick Clearance Laws challenges further implementation.

Report Purpose

This report is intended 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.

Target Audience

This report is intended for public agency management or administrative personnel and State and local political officials. Public agency management and administrative personnel will be better prepared to respond to arguments against the need for such legislation and to cite best practice examples of Quick Clearance laws. Through the use of this document, State and local political officials will be better prepared to develop and promote effective Quick Clearance legislation.

Report Content and Organization

This report includes:

  1. a description of the role and relevance of Quick Clearance laws in the broader traffic incident management (TIM) context;
  2. a detailed review of the purpose and intent, model language, observed content trends and anomalies, and implementation challenges and resolutions for Move Over, Driver Removal, and Authority Removal laws including specific examples from State legislation; and
  3. concluding remarks and proposed strategies for implementation, including a discussion of beneficial synergy resulting from combined Quick Clearance laws and their implementation.

Much of the statutory language is consistent between States. Where differences do exist, individual examples are included to reflect a broader set of State laws. In the interest of brevity, few State laws are included in their entirety. This document excludes language not directly related to Quick Clearance operations, but includes legal citations by State for further follow-up by the reader.

December 2008
FHWA-HOP-09-005

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