JEFFERSON CITY – First Lady Teresa Parson knows all too well the dangers first responders face along the highways. First Lady Parson’s brother, Rick Seiner, was working as an EMT and loading a crash victim into an ambulance when a passing driver struck and killed him.
“It’s a very hard time for a family to have to live through something like this,” First Lady Parson said. “It’s something I hope no one has to live through.”
But across the country, it’s something hundreds of families experience each year. In their tireless efforts to save lives, responders often put their own at risk. In fact, traffic incidents are the leading cause of death for EMS responders and law enforcement officers. To remind motorists what’s on the line, the Federal Highway Administration has declared the week of Nov. 10-16 as National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week.
There were more than 155,000 traffic crashes in Missouri in 2018. As part of the Missouri Department of Transportation’s work to maintain a safe and reliable transportation system, MoDOT emergency response personnel respond to more than 6,000 traffic incidents each month on average.
On Thursday, Nov. 14, MoDOT’s Southwest District--coordinating with local law enforcement, fire, EMS, towing and Missouri State Highway Patrol crews--will conduct a full-scale traffic incident management (TIM) exercise. The agencies will stage a highway incident at the Springfield-Branson National Airport at 1:30 p.m. to ensure crews are adequately prepared to respond to these emergencies.
“TIM programs help ensure the right people arrive at the right location to help keep people safe and traffic moving freely,” said Jon Nelson, chair of the executive committee of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety. “But it’s a dangerous job, and drivers increase the risk of harm when they don’t slow down or move over if they can.”
When motorists approach MoDOT or any other responders or emergency vehicles on the side of the highway with flashing lights, they should move over. Missouri’s Move Over law requires drivers to either change lanes or slow down when approaching stationary MoDOT, law enforcement or other emergency vehicles with flashing lights. To help protect those who protect us, all 50 states enforce some form of the Move Over law.
“When you’re driving through these scenes, someone’s life depends on you,” First Lady Parson said. “If we’re focusing and just doing what we should be doing when we’re in the driver’s seat, crashes like the one that killed my brother would not happen.”
“The bottom line is that we want everyone to make it home at the end of the day. These responders are out there to keep the highways clear and safe for us,” Nelson said. “We need to do our part to keep them safe for responders, too.”