This article reports on several studies sponsored by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) that address roadway safety for police and fire-service personnel involved in the management of traffic accidents and vehicle stops.
Regarding the need for improved officer safety in this area, preliminary data for 2009 from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund show that for the 12th year in succession, more officers were killed in the line of duty in traffic incidents than from any other cause of death. Improving the safety of first responders as they navigate through traffic and work at the scene in responding to emergency roadway accidents requires increased visibility for their vehicles. In examining retroreflective striping, high-visibility paint, built-in lighting, and other reflectors on emergency vehicles, a recent study found that retroreflective materials could heighten emergency vehicle visibility, especially at night. Placing such material lower on vehicles can take advantage of headlights from civilian vehicles reflecting off the material. Fluorescent colors, especially fluorescent yellow-green and orange, improve visibility during daylight hours. Research on vehicle warning lights produced the following recommendations: Consider using different intensity levels of warning lights for day and night (more intensity during the day); make more use of blue light, day and night; and use color to make a clear visual distinction between parked emergency vehicles in two different paths. Another important safety measure is setting up a proper safety zone at the scene of an accident or other roadside hazard, as well as increasing the visibility of emergency responders on foot. NIJ has also supported a collaboration that has created a Web site (ResponderSafety.com) that contains the latest news and training on roadside safety, as well as recent cases of responders who were injured or killed by vehicles while on duty. 8 notes