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Carriers, as well as escort companies, often have strict policies about what to do in an emergency situation. However, State laws also specify what motorists are required to do in the event of a collision or incident involving traffic control operations. These laws include not only those that directly affect pilot/escort vehicle operators (P/EVO), but also those that apply to all drivers in any emergency situation.


States have specific laws governing what motorists are to do if they are involved in or witness a roadway incident. Many of these laws make distinctions between injury collisions and those involving only property damage. In addition, States typically have rules about treatment of injured people. For example, if a medically qualified person is at the accident scene and helping the injured, motorists should stay out of the way unless asked to assist. Motorists should not move an injured person unless the person is in danger; for example, the injured person is near or inside a vehicle that smells like gasoline, or the injured person is walking around or lying on a roadway and in danger of being struck by another vehicle. Activities such as keeping the injured person as still and calm as possible and contacting medical assistance and family members are consistent with State laws regarding emergency situations.

Emergencies have several common characteristics:

  1. An emergency is unexpected.
  2. An emergency threatens one or more people.
  3. Threats may be real or possible.
  4. Emergencies demand a rapid, sometimes immediate, response.
  5. Responses may reduce or mitigate an emergency.

It is also useful to consider what an emergency is not. An emergency is not the same as risk. Risk is exposure to the possibility of physical injury, damage, financial loss or gain, or delay as a result of uncertainty associated with taking a specific action.15 Risk is a probability of an event and is mitigated by maintaining insurance policies, carrying spare parts, and other acts of being prepared for emergencies.

Emergencies span a range of activities with regard to oversize load movement. Traffic emergencies involve vehicles that collide with other vehicles, transportation infrastructure, or obstacles in the roadway. Vehicle emergencies occur when tires, brakes, or other parts of the vehicle, the load, or load securement devices fail during operation. Another form of emergency especially relevant to the movement of oversize loads is roadside breakdown. In many situations, it isn't possible to get the oversize load completely off the roadway. This presents hazards to motorists, especially when traveling at night, during heavy traffic, or in bad weather or low visibility situations. Accidents and incidents create emergencies, and the choices made by P/EVOs and load drivers contribute substantially to the outcomes of emergency situations.

15 Cooper, D. and C. Chapman, Risk Analysis for Large Projects: Models, Methods and Cases (Somerset, NJ: John Wiley & Sons: 1987). [ Return to note 15. ]

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