Path Home Shows 2016 Show Archive November 2016 Show 1647 Highway Safety

Highway Safety

Eastern Oklahoma Tech Center’s Big Rig Rescue taught teams how to deal with the special challenges of a wrecked commercial truck.
Highway Safety

Highway Safety

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Oklahoma Traffic Incident Management

Eastern Oklahoma Technology Center


Show Details

Show 1647: Highway Safety
Air Date: November 20, 2016



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, it is often said that time is money, and nowhere is that more evident than on our roadways. Thanksgiving is often one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, a family holiday that has a lot of us hitting the road, not to mention all the shoppers out looking for a deal on Black Friday. So today, we begin our show by taking a closer look at the work underway to keep traffic moving when accidents do occur. Here’s our Austin Moore.

Austin Moore: Behind the campus of Eastern Oklahoma Technology Center in Choctaw, Oklahoma, a group of first responders gathers contemplating how to move this mass of steel.

Alan Sanders: It’s just a different animal if you will.

Austin: Alan Sanders is the fire training coordinator for EOC Tech. He organized this event called Big Rig Rescue. These teams learn how deal with the special challenges of a wrecked commercial truck.

Sanders: All the principals, how we clear, disentangle or move things, may be similar, but a lot of the aspects of what we do requires deeper training and specialized training in handling heavier weights and bigger objects like the rigs on their sides.

Austin: The goal of this training is to turn what could be a head-scratching effort of blunt force into a coordinated ballet of crumpled steel.

Sanders: If I could reference a pit crew on a NASCAR, you see somebody putting fuel in that vehicle while somebody is changing tires and adjusting the chassis. They don’t wait for each other to get done. That is our mentality on the roads. We are trying to do a better job for the motoring public that depends on us to get the roadways open for them.

Austin: Working side by side has not always been the norm for these agencies, but a new national program and a concerted state effort is making a difference.

Sanders: The National Program of Traffic Incident Management Systems has brought us a long way in the state of Oklahoma. We get all of the response agencies and roadway workers in a room. And we talk about some of the awareness needs and some of the practices that we are looking to get to as best practice for managing incidents.

Vergil Bonham: The TIMS system here is something that we all work together with versus everybody showing up and just deciding on how and when I want to do, I’m going to do what I’m going to do.

Austin: Vergil Bonham is the director of wrecker services for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

Bonham: That coordinating effort of, you know, “What do I do? How do I fit in the puzzle?” is vital. Because if you don’t, someone is going to get killed.

Jim Hock: That is the whole idea behind the TIMS. We meet and discuss what our goals are and what their goals are and how we can all come together to meet those goals together and still be safe and efficient and get the roadways back open.

Austin: Jim Hock is the fire chief for Del City. He tells us this planning has already established ideal placement for the major players at a crash.

Hock: Law enforcement should be the furthest back. They are going to be warning the upstream drivers that there is an accident ahead. Then you have got the fire equipment up there. We are blocking. We have to be close enough, just in case anything does catch fire. Then you’ve got the accident scene. In front of the accident scene we normally try to put the ambulance there. And then in front of the ambulance we try to put the wrecker up there. Now, that’s just the key players on the very start of an accident.

Austin: All this is done for two reasons. Safety and a cascading economic impact.

Sanders: The key is get off that roadway as fast as we can. Clear the roadway and give these lanes back to the traveling public. Because it does have a financial insult, if you will, to the economics of our state and the individual sitting in that vehicle. Twenty-one dollars for every hour that vehicle is sitting in there is said to be the average cost of a vehicle sitting in a traffic queue. And when you talk about 27 or 17 or 7 miles of traffic backup, that’s a lot of money. People trying to get where they are going, they need to get there in a timely fashion because their child at day care is costing them money for every five minutes they are over at the day care. These things all trickle down and affect every one of us.

Bonham: All the disciplines in the scene is doing all they can to just clear the road and take care of the people that are injured. If everybody involved, including that driver, does the same --because I believe that, that public has a piece of the puzzle, too, and if they all realize what their piece of the puzzle is, I think we are going to save lives.

Austin: The initial accident has a cost, but as cars get safer, it is the secondary accident, the one that occurs with traffic moving past a crash scene, that often has a greater toll in loss of life. No one is more aware of this need than wrecker operator Bryan Albrecht.

Bryan Albrecht: It is a dangerous place, working on the side of the highway. Every car that goes by is a bullet. The next one could be the one that takes you out. And we never know from day to day whether we’re coming back home at the end of the day or not.

Austin: A concern shared by officers like Lt. James Loftis.

James Loftis: Over the years we have lost a great number of troopers while they were investigating traffic crashes. So not only do you have to think about the criminal aspect, you have got to think about saving your life, protecting your life and the other responders that are on the scene as well.

Austin: And that is where efficiency meets safety when we talk about this coordinated training.

Hock: With the TIMS program, you’ll notice that the big red trucks, the fire trucks, are the ones that we are blocking with. Well, in today’s market those are about a million dollar trucks. And you wouldn’t think that you want to put a million dollars out there that something can hit, but a million dollars is pretty cheap if you are saving somebody’s life. I mean, when you look at the overall goal, equipment can be replaced and repaired. Lives cannot.

Rob: And Austin tells us the growth in electric cars does offer its own challenge. Because these cars are powered by banks of large batteries, they pose a whole new set of risks. Now, a little later in our show we head on down the road in style, thanks to an Oklahoma-based company. But when we return, the economics of transport.