Help protect first responders working in the roadway – learn more during Crash Responder Safety Week: November 8-14, 2021

The Seattle Response Team (SRT) provides many services. Our members receive specific training and each SRT truck is equipped with many tools to accomplish a wide variety of jobs. Photo Credit: SDOT.

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Summary:

  • This week is Crash Responder Safety Week, a national initiative to raise awareness about first responders and the work they do in the roadway to support the safety of the traveling public.
  • The safety week runs from November 8-14, 2021 – but the effort is critical to keep in mind every day of the year. This year’s theme is “Slow Down, Move Over, Be Safe.”
  • First responders include transportation and public works employees, law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services, towing, and other responders. Our SDOT Response Team works 24/7 to keep our streets clear and operating safely and efficiently.
  • Join us to help ensure the safety of these workers, and everyone traveling. This blog includes important reminders about how you can help prevent serious injuries or fatalities by paying close attention to your surroundings while driving, keeping an eye out for pink incident warning signs, and moving over and slowing down for emergency response vehicles and workers.

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“Crash Responder Safety Week is a national effort to both protect responders who are at the scene of highway crashes and remind the public of their responsibility to use caution when driving near roadside incidents involving emergency personnel. This year’s theme for November 8-14 is Slow Down, Move Over, Be Safe.”

– Federal Highway Administration

Members of the Seattle Department of Transportation's Response Team pose in front of two response trucks in Seattle. Ten individuals stand together, wearing bright neon yellow safety jackets, and smiling for the camera. A blue sky and downtown Seattle skyscrapers are visible in the background.
The SDOT Response Team. Photo Credit: SDOT.

Our SDOT Response Team helps keep traffic moving 24/7 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. The SRT was launched in 2018. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Incident Response Team 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.

Check out our previous blog from last November for additional details on how our Traffic Incident Management (TIM) program and Traffic Operations Center (TOC) work. Please visit our website for guidance how to report issues on City streets. This includes when to dial 9-1-1 if you encounter a vehicle collision, emergency, or life-threatening situation – and when to contact us to report non-urgent situations through our Find It/Fix It app, by email, or by phone. You can also learn about the services our SDOT Response Team provides.

So how can I help keep first responders safe in the roadway while they respond to vehicle crashes and other incidents?

Drivers have an extremely important role – and responsibility – to help protect the safety of first responders, and other people traveling near crash scenes and other incidents in the roadway.

Here’s how you can help:

1) Pay attention

Please always follow the speed limit, stay off your phone completely (it’s the law!) and keep an eye on your surroundings. Particularly in these darker days, it’s critical that you pay attention to the road’s most vulnerable users – people walking, rolling, and biking.

A graphic icon shows a person holding a smartphone with a line through it, indicating that the phone must not be held while driving, per state law. The background is a bright orange color, with the words "Off The Phone" visible at the top middle area.
Holding the phone while driving is illegal. When on the road, stay off the phone – it’s the law. Photo credit: Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC).

2) See pink, think compassion

If you see a pink fluorescent warning sign on the road, that means there is an incident ahead. The Federal Highway Administration established this bright color for signs indicating an incident so the public can distinguish incident warnings 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. 

An example of a bright pink incident warning sign. The bright pink sign says the words "emergency scene ahead." It is a diamond shape, with a thick black line slightly inset from the borders of the sign's shape.
Example of a pink incident warning sign.

3) Move over and slow down

Photo of SDOT crews responding to a past incident along State Route 99 in Seattle. A man stands behind a response truck while working on-scene. The truck has an electronic sign with arrows pointing left to direct drivers in the area to merge left. The Port of Seattle, SODO, and downtown Seattle buildings are visible in the background.
SDOT Response Team responding to a past incident on SR 99. Photo Credit: Patricia Westsik, SDOT. 

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, 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.

In 2020, the law expanded to include highway construction and maintenance vehicles, utility vehicles and other vehicles providing roadside assistance when they have lights flashing.

“We cannot overstate the importance of every driver doing their part – please slow down, move over, be safe, and pay attention at all times while you are driving. If everyone participates in this effort to protect incident response workers and other travelers, we can all make it home safe to our families each night. We deeply appreciate your support and continued attention to this matter. Thank you.”

– Patricia Westsik, Seattle Department of Transportation