Keeping you safer on Iowa’s roadways – update on joint operating procedure agreement between Iowa DOT and Iowa State Patrol
The Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa State Patrol have similar goals to do everything we can to promote safe travel on Iowa’s roadways. In recent years, the two agencies have collaborated on a document to spell out exactly how the agencies work together on traffic incidents on Iowa’s state and U.S. highways and interstates. This Joint Operations Policy Statement sets goals and objectives for collaboration.
Andy Lewis, the director of the Iowa DOT’s Traffic Operations Bureau, is part of the team that developed and continues to refine the document. He said, “We started this a few years ago to bolster inter-agency cooperation. We took a framework modeled after agreements like this around the country and then incorporated our own ideas and potential areas where each entity saw room for improvement. We’ve had a number of great conversations that led to a better understanding between the groups. That information filled in the framework that is specific to Iowa.”
But it’s not just a document that sits on a shelf. Each agency distributes a quick guide to all field locations and holds regular meetings to review and update the information. Both Iowa DOT field staff and ISP troopers are expected to follow the items in the agreement. Your safety as a traveler on the road, and the safety of both Iowa DOT and ISP teams depend on it.
Lewis said, “The policy-makers put this document in place with input from our front-line workers. Those maintenance workers and troopers are the ones that make this work on a daily basis. We’re all working together for the common good. We’re starting to see that collaborative culture come to the surface in both agencies, which benefits everyone.”
The Joint Operations Policy Statement states three goals.
- Maintain free-flowing traffic on Iowa roadways.
When traffic is moving as drivers expect, everyone is safer. When there is an unexpected or sudden change in traffic flow, that’s when crashes are more likely to happen.
- Protect the back of the traffic queue and clear traffic incidents as quickly and safely as possible.
“Secondary” crashes are crashes that happen in close proximity to an existing incident. Many times, the secondary crash is worse than the original incident. These types of crashes often happen when a driver coming up on an incident doesn’t realize that traffic is stopped and rear-ends the vehicle at the back of the traffic line. That’s why is it critical to get traffic moving as quickly and safely as possible.
- Clear highway incidents from lanes within 30 minutes in urban areas, 45 minutes in rural areas, and 90 minutes for major incidents involving crash investigations or heavy trucks whenever possible.
For every minute a lane is blocked, the likelihood of a second crash in the area increases by 2.8 percent. Clearing traffic crashes takes time, but there are ways to move vehicles around to get the flow of traffic back to normal, even if the crash scene isn’t totally clear. Clearing the travel lanes quickly decreases the crash danger for everyone on the road and also helps freight haulers keep moving the goods you need from point A to point B.
The document also lays out eight objectives. These are very specific items designed to help the agencies work better together, which will improve safety for all those on the road. The goal is to take a look at these items and update them every year.
1. EVERYONE GOES HOME SAFELY.
The Iowa DOT and Iowa State Patrol will collaborate to support and promote Traffic Incident Management training for all first responders with the goal of training all of Iowa’s first responders.
2. CLEAR TRAFFIC INCIDENTS FROM ROADS AS FAST & SAFE AS POSSIBLE.
The Iowa DOT and Iowa State Patrol will collaborate and explore ways to reduce highway incident blockage time by:
- Jointly conducting traffic incident management training sessions.
- Holding annual Joint Operations Policy Statement meetings to review, discuss, and revise procedures that keep you safer on the road.
- Reporting the number of major traffic incidents lasting longer than two hours. Reviewing these incidents may help us understand similar incidents in the future to get them cleared more quickly.
- Conducting after-action reviews for all major incidents to identify areas of improvement moving forward.
3. PROVIDE TRAFFIC CONTROL TO IMPROVE THE SAFETY OF ON-SCENE RESPONDERS & MOTORISTS APPROACHING AN INCIDENT.
Regularly review safety procedures for Highway Helper deployment to ensure efficient and effective incident response performance.
4. USE TECHNOLOGY AND EDUCATION TO REDUCE CRASH SCENE INVESTIGATION TIMES.
Conduct a survey or technology that is consistently impacting the ability to meet the 90-minute clearance time and pursue new technologies to meet this goal.
5. PERFORM TOWING AND RECOVERY OPERATIONS AS QUICKLY AND SAFELY AS POSSIBLE.
Evaluate the effectiveness of towing and recovery operations on the interstates to ensure vehicles are moved off the travel lanes quickly while preserving the integrity of law enforcement investigations.
6. INCREASE SAFETY AND MOBILITY FOR MOTORISTS DURING WINTER WEATHER.
- Host meetings to discuss tactical deployments specific to a particular area.
- Communicate with the public through joint press releases, the 511 system, social media, and Dynamic Message Sign (DMS) messaging.
- Follow the steps in the Winter Closure Plan during full winter interstate closures.
7. ACHIEVE THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE LEVEL OF SAFETY IN WORK ZONES BY EDUCATING MOTORISTS AND ENFORCING REGULATIONS FOR SAFELY NEGOTIATING WORK ZONES.
- The Iowa DOT will provide the Iowa State Patrol with timely roadway construction information.
- The Iowa DOT and Iowa State Patrol will discuss project plans, develop enforcement and road clearance strategies, implement Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), and disseminate information to the public.
8. COLLECT CRASH DATA FOR COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLE FATALITY CRASHES.
Ensure that commercial motor vehicle fatality crashes are investigated quickly, safely, and in accordance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.
Working together, Iowa’s statewide law enforcement agencies and other entities who respond to crashes have a common goal, to get you home safely.