Clearing crashes quicker to keep you safer on Iowa’s roads

20180611_205558When there is a crash, especially one that involves a large truck, every minute counts to get traffic moving again and keep you safer on the road. Research shows that for every minute that a lane is closed, the risk of another crash in the area goes up by 2.8 percent. At around 30 minutes, the chance of a second crash in the area is very high.

A new program in the Iowa City and Des Moines areas helps us fulfill one of our core values, “Safety First”, by clearing crashes more quickly, especially those involving large trucks, which reduces your risk of being involved in a second crash. The program offers incentives to towing companies to have specialized equipment ready to respond to commercial vehicle crashes.

The “Towing and Recovery Incentive Program” or TRIP began as a pilot a few years ago in Iowa City. In January, the program was expanded to the Des Moines metropolitan area. Ashley Hochberger, from our Traffic Operations Bureau, said, “We focused on large truck crashes for this new program because these types of crashes can typically take longer to clear, increasing the risk for everyone else on the road.” Hochberger said, “We started in Iowa City because of the large construction project at the I-80/380/218 interchange. With this large work zone, we anticipated an increase in crashes, especially those involving large trucks. To get these crashes cleared more quickly, we started working even more closely with the heavy-duty towing companies in the area. By having open and honest discussions and building mutual respect, we have developed great working relationships that help everyone improve safety and efficiency.”


How does the program work?

When a towing company applies to be part of the program, it must meet a list of safety criteria, follow all regulations that apply, and agree to have specific equipment ready to go quickly to clear a scene.

Crash sceneHochberger explained, “Once a crash happens, our maintenance staff or law enforcement on the scene contact the law enforcement dispatch in the area. Dispatch calls a towing company that has been enrolled in the TRIP program. The towing company then has 45 minutes on weekdays and 60 minutes on nights and weekends to arrive at the crash scene.

When they get to the scene, they will work with law enforcement on-scene to begin clearing the crash. To qualify for an incentive payment, the crash must be cleared within 90 minutes of when they are given the green light to clear the scene. If special equipment is needed, the towing company can earn an additional incentive for having that equipment ready and the scene cleared in the 90-minute window.”

Towing at crash scene
The new program speeds up communication between first responders and towing companies to get the equipment that is needed to quickly clear the crash.

The new program is all about connecting the right people with the right equipment to get the job done. Captain Scott Knudtson with our Motor Vehicle Enforcement said, “Prior to TRIP, we would sometimes have trouble getting towing companies to respond to incidents or they would not bring the correct equipment with them. Now, we know the capabilities of each company and they have an extra incentive to get to the scene and get it cleared quickly.”

Mitch Wood, our eastern Iowa maintenance manager, said, “Overall, TRIP has developed into a very valuable program for everyone involved. It was a bit of an adjustment when we first started since it was brand new. To me, TRIP has increased collaboration between DOT staff, law enforcement, and tow companies. I see good relationships developing through TRIP that equates to a better response and better service for travelers.”

To prove his point, Wood continued, “Recently, the program proved very beneficial when we had a horrific multi-vehicle crash on I-80 in which people were killed. TRIP was activated due to the number of vehicles involved. All three tow companies that are part of our program assisted and were on the scene soon after the incident occurred and were able to clear the initial incident, helping reduce the risk of another crash.”

In addition to supporting our core value of safety first the TRIP program works towards our five-year priority goals of improving transportation system safety.

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