Emergency Transportation Operations

Traffic Incident Management Outreach Toolkit:
Talking Points Framework

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Introducing the TIM Talking Points

Talking points capture the most important messages of a concept in a single simple structure, so every audience can easily understand them. These messages will be communicated through a variety of means and people. Agency spokespersons may use the talking points as a foundation for presentations or speeches, developing news releases, or providing interviews with the media using this. Civic associations and schools may distribute brochures, or include links to websites that carry these messages. Representatives from public agencies may use their own words to express these ideas when speaking with media contacts and constituents, and marketing products will make these messages memorable by using emotional appeal, metaphors, and images to convey these messages. No matter who's doing the communicating, everyone can start from these.

Please note: This is an internal document solely for the use of an agency or organization that is promoting TIM as part of its outreach efforts.

One way to construct talking points is with a three-layer pyramid, in which we state a core message (a "Top Line" message), explain why it is true (supporting "Proof Points"), and then show why it matters (the "Bottom Line"):

Graphic of a pyramid with a top line (overarching statement - direct, impactful, simple) at the top, proof-points (validating anecdotes and facts - surprising, emotional, factual) in the middle, and the bottom line (spell it out for your audience: so what? how does this help me?) at the bottom.

Using this pyramid can help stakeholders introduce and explain the value of TIM to the general public. The last page provides example business card- and index card-sized messaging. TOP LINE (Core Message)

Top Line (Core Message)

Graphic of a pyramid, highlighting the top layer (top line, core message).

Do you know TIM? Traffic Incident Management (TIM) helps keep us safe and moving on our roadways. When anything occurs that affects our roadways, TIM practices help keep everyone (other drivers and emergency responders) safe and keep traffic moving until traffic is flowing normally again. When it comes to your life, time truly matters.

Proof Points

Graphic of a pyramid, highlighting the middle layer (proof points).

  1. Traffic incidents include just about anything that happens on or near a roadway that affects traffic. No matter the type of traffic incident – it is likely to cause delay or create an unsafe situation for other people on the road.
    • Small fender-benders can grind traffic to a halt because of "rubber-neckers."
    • Sometimes a traffic lane or even an entire roadway must be shut down for serious crashes.
  2. Traffic incidents put lives at risk, and are a major cause of congestion on our nation's roadways.
    • Traffic incidents alone cause nearly 25% of the congestion on our roadways. What's worse, every minute you are stuck in a traffic jam because of a traffic incident increases your risk of being rear-ended.1
  3. TIM responders are heroes of our highways and roadways, saving lives every day.
    • TIM responders work closely together to make sure the right people show up to the scene.
    • Towing and recovery professionals are key members of TIM teams, to help move cars and trucks out of the roadways.
    • Firefighters, EMS/EMT, law enforcement, safety patrols, maintenance crews and 911 dispatchers work together using well-rehearsed procedures to respond quickly and safely.
  4. A program to ensure TIM efforts are coordinated is essential to saving lives and protecting roadways every day. Everyone benefits when TIM works. Good TIM programs make sense because they save lives, they save time, and they save us all money.
    • People who need roadside help or are in a crash get the help they need more quickly because the right people show up with the right equipment.
      • Receiving proper treatment quickly when injured in a crash can greatly reduce medical costs and time out of work.
    • Drivers in the area get the information they need, right when and where they need it, so they can make safer, smarter travel decisions to avoid an incident ahead. Faster incident response means safer, more predictable commutes and more time doing what you want to do, rather than being stuck in traffic.
      • Commuters lose a day and a half (36 hours) of their lives in traffic congestion each year.2
    • Responders and other motorists are safer because drivers move over, and slow down to give them space. They are able to provide the right help faster to those in need and open the roadways more quickly.
    • Our local economies benefit from reduced costs by sending only necessary equipment and responders to the scene. With transportation budgets stretched to the limit, TIM helps us all get the most use out of our existing roads by keeping traffic moving safely and freely after an incident.

      • Costs associated with the most serious traffic incidents increased by 85 percent in the past four years. Quick clearance can help reduce these costs by assuring the responders with the right equipment are sent, and helping them get to and from the scene more quickly.3
      • TIM helps us shave the 4.2 billion hours per year Americans sit in traffic and the $87.2 billion lost per year in time and fuel costs.4
    • Good TIM practices result in less idling, which keeps our air more breathable by reducing harmful emissions.
      • Americans burn more than 2.8 billion gallons every year—that's nearly 24 gallons of gas per driver—every year stuck in incident-related traffic. Drivers can lower their fuel bills – less idling means less wasted fuel.5
  5. Everyone has a role in making TIM work. Do your job so that our responders can do theirs when time truly matters.
    • Drivers:
      • Slow down and move over when passing by an incident scene to provide a protective buffer for responders, and the motorists behind you.
        • Nearly 13% of the firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty are killed in vehicle-related incidents.6
        • Traffic incidents are the number one cause of death of EMS/EMT responders.7 Traffic incidents are the leading cause of death for police officers.8
        • You can get a ticket if you do not slow down and move over.
      • If you can steer it, clear it. Many drivers think they should not move their car if they are involved in a fender-bender or crash. Even if their car is drivable and there are no injuries, they believe they should wait until the police arrive and can make an accident report before moving their cars. But this is not true and actually puts them, their cars and other people's lives at risk:
        • If (and only if) your car is drivable and there are no injuries, you should move your car to the shoulder or nearby safe place off of the road.
      • Know your state's laws about what to do in a traffic incident.

    • Media:
      • Help drivers avoid the incident scene.
      • Remind drivers to move over and slow down when passing responders assisting motorists on the side of the road and, if they are involved in a traffic incident, to move their cars out of the roadway if the vehicles are drivable and there are no injuries for their safety.
    • Everyone:
      • Share this information with family, friends, co-workers and community leaders.
      • Tell your elected officials to support TIM programs.

Bottom Line

Graphic of a pyramid, highlighting the bottom layer (bottom line).

Traffic incidents cost us valuable time lost from our daily lives and work, as well as compromise our safety. That's why it's important to understand how TIM can make travel more reliable. Because when we all do our part, TIM can work for all of us.

For more information or to learn more about the value of TIM on our roadways, visit the Federal Highway Administration's TIM Toolbox at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/tim/timtoolbox/.

Business Card:


[TIM logo] When it comes to your life, time truly matters.


[Logo or listing of partnering responders involved in TIM]

Traffic Incident Management (TIM) helps keep us safe and traffic moving on our roadways. Do Your Part to Support Traffic Incident Management.

Index Card:


[TIM logo]

When it comes to your life, time truly matters.
Do Your Part to Support Traffic Incident Management.


When an anything occurs that affects our roadways, TIM

  • Saves lives
  • Saves time
  • Smooths commutes
  • Saves us all money
  • Helps make our environment happier and air cleaner

1. https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/congestion_report_04/chapter2.htm [Return to text]

2. U.S. DOT Strategic Plan FY 2010 – FY2015; April 15, 2010. [Return to text]

3. Cambridge Systematics, Inc. 2011. Crashes vs. Congestion: What's the Cost to Society? Bethesda, Md.: AAA Foundation. [Return to text]

4. U.S. DOT Strategic Plan FY 2010 – FY2015; April 15, 2010. [Return to text]

5. U.S. DOT Strategic Plan FY 2010 – FY2015; April 15, 2010. [Return to text]

6. http://www.mcdot.maricopa.gov/news/2011/smartdrive.htm [Return to text]

7. Maguire B, Hunting K, Smith G, Levick N. [2002]. Occupational fatalities in emergency medical services: a hidden crisis. Ann Emerg Med 40: 629. Benincasa, Robert. Study: Traffic Incidents Top Cause Of Police Deaths, National Public Radio, May 13, 2010. Traffic kills more officers than guns according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126800395 [Return to text]

8. https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/congestion_report_04/chapter2.htm [Return to text]