November 9 – 15 is National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week. From our team to yours: please slow down and stay vigilant, especially around traffic emergencies.

The SDOT Response Team. Photo Credit: SDOT.

Summary 

  • National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week — which falls this year from November 9 – 15 — is one way of honoring traffic responders’ important work while raising awareness of the dangers of their work. 
  • Our SDOT Response Team (SRT) helps keep traffic moving by promptly removing debris in the street, assisting stranded motorists, responding to issues with traffic signals, and more 24/7. 
  • The SRT is part of the Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Program. All our City teams are always ready to respond to traffic incidents and work in coordination with each other and other agencies to clear incidents as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible. 
  • If you’re driving, you can help make sure that we can quickly and safely clear incidents to keep everyone moving safely. Stay vigilant, move with compassion, and always pull over when you see a fire truck or ambulance with lights and sirens in traffic. 

What’s National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week? 

The goal of National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week is to reach out to every responder, every driver, and every passenger, to make it more clear that every person has a role to play.

Traffic Incident Management Network 

National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, which this year falls from November 9 – 15, is one way of honoring traffic responders’ important work while raising awareness of the dangers of their work to clear crashes and other incidents while people are driving by. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss the role of SDOT’s Response Team (SRT), and what you can do to help them and our entire community stay safe, especially as days get darker. 

In addition to our city’s first responders – the Seattle Police and Seattle Fire Department – SDOT has its own team of responders who help keep our city streets clear of incidents. 

Our SDOT Response Team (SRT) helps keep traffic moving by promptly removing debris in the street, moving vehicles out of the traffic lane after a crash or collision, assisting stranded motorists, providing emergency traffic control for incidents and responding to issues with traffic signals, and more 24/7.  The SRT was launched in 2018. WSDOT’s Incident Response Team (IRT) has provided incident response on state highways for years, yet Seattle is one of only a few American cities to provide these services on city streets. 

The SRT is part of the Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Program. All our City teams are always ready to respond to traffic incidents and work in coordination with each other and other agencies to clear incidents as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible.  

The SRT coordinates with partner agencies in the TIM Program, including the Seattle Police Department (SPD); the Seattle Fire Department (SFD); Seattle City Light (SCL); Seattle Public Utilities (SPU); WSDOT; SDOT’s Traffic Operations Center (TOC); and the Radio Dispatch Office.

The TOC is SDOT’s eyes and ears and sometimes spots an incident before anyone else. The TOC coordinates with our Radio Dispatch Team to make sure our SRT knows about traffic incidents so they can help clear them to keep people moving. The Dispatch team hears about things like trees blocking the road, or requests from SDOT’s Find It/Fix It app – a place where the community can submit information about issues like potholes, sign and signal maintenance, among other service requests! Then, the Radio Dispatch Team coordinates with the appropriate SDOT department to manage the incident as efficiently as possible. 

Many calls actually come directly to the Radio Dispatch Team. The Dispatch Office is staffed 24/7 as dispatchers monitor the SDOT radios, provide back-up for the Bridge team, and dispatch the SRT to incidents via radio. After hours, members of the public who call 206-684-ROAD have the option to connect to the SDOT Charles St Dispatch office. 

“Our Radio Dispatch Office is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and our team members are ready to help coordinate and connect resources.” 

Sonia Palma, SDOT Customer Service & Incident Response Manager

“Safe, quick clearances comes with getting what we need quickly. The quicker we can get what we need to the scene – whether it is a sweeper, tow truck, or other equipment – the quicker we can safely open the roads.

Patricia Westsik, SDOT Incident Response Team Supervisor

If you’re driving, here’s how you can help make sure that we can quickly and safely clear incidents to keep everyone moving safely.  

Pay attention. 

Installing a new speed limit sign. We are lowering speed limits throughout the city to make everyone safer. Please pay attention to them! Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr.

You should always be watching the speed limit, staying off your phone completely (it’s the law!) and keeping an eye on all of your surroundings. Particularly in the darker days, it’s absolutely critical that you pay attention to the road’s most vulnerable users: people walking, rolling, and biking. 

See pink, think compassion. 

SRT members standing near a pink Emergency Scene Ahead sign. Photo Credit: SDOT. 

The Federal Highway Administration established bright fluorescent pink as the color for signs indicating an incident, making them easy to distinguish from the familiar orange construction signs. One way to remember this is that when you see pink, think compassion, because someone is involved in an incident up ahead. 

Move over and slow down.

Always pull over when you see a fire truck or ambulance with lights and sirens in traffic. There’s also a Move Over, Slow Down law for response vehicles on the side of the road. If you are driving and see emergency and other response vehicles with flashing lights on the shoulder, the Washington State law requires you to  move over to the next lane if safe to do so. If you cannot move over, you must slow down as you pass the emergency vehicles. This helps keep the response team safe and lets them finish their work efficiently.

This past summer, the law expanded to include highway construction/maintenance vehicles, utility vehicles and other vehicles providing roadside assistance when they have lights flashing. 

The SRT’s work and the work of all first responders is always important, but since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, their work has become paramount to keeping people moving safely and efficiently.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we’ve seen less traffic but much higher speeds. Unfortunately this has led to more fatal and serious injury collisions since March compared to this time last year. It’s important now more than ever to stay off your phone, watch the speed limit, and pay attention to your environment. Pay special attention when you see the pink emergency signs posted on the side of the road, as this indicates there is an incident ahead. Also, if you see flashing lights, move over. If you can’t, please slow down. Let’s make sure we all get where we’re going safely.  

Patricia Westsik, SDOT Incident Response Team Supervisor

Thank you for helping us keep our community moving safely and efficiently!