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6 ways to improve roadway operations safety for emergency responders

Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Carlos Rosario shares his recovery after being struck on a roadway and promotes safety during Distracted Driver Awareness Month

Carlos Rosario.jpg

According to the National Safety Council survey, the perception of 49% of participants is that for the responders being struck on the scene of incidents, it’s “just part of the risk” of being a first responder. Death on the highway should never be an expectation.

Photo/Miami Fire-Rescue

By Marc Bashoor

Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Carlos Rosario was using radar to monitor traffic speed on State Road 836 in Miami-Dade County on St. Patrick’s Day, 2017, when a chain reaction of events changed his life forever.

Rosario was attempting to stop a speeding car. As the vehicle slowed, the next oncoming vehicle’s driver – who was texting at 89 miles per hour – looked up, spun the vehicle out of control and struck Rosario.

Rosario was mangled, every bone in his body broken. Though it was considered likely he would die, he survived. As he began his recovery, doctors told him he would never walk again.

I was humbled to speak with Corporal Rosario in Miami at the kickoff event for April 2019’s Distracted Driver Awareness Month.

Rosario credits his family and his faith, along with his doctors, for his miraculous return to duty, two short years later. Trooper Rosario’s passion and compassion for the 26-year-old driver who nearly killed him is amazing. Rosario’s passion is fuel for my fire to help improve emergency responder safety on our roadways.

Distracted drivers are a deadly threat to public safety professionals on the road

While only 2,000 participated in the survey, the results are astoundingly telling. While there’s many statistics, I especially shake my head at this one: 71% of drivers take photos or videos while driving. It’s time to stop; put the phone down and pay attention to driving.

Every state now has “Slow Down, Move Over” laws, to one degree or another. Only the District of Columbia lacks such a law.

Over 40,000 people die annually on our roadways. Think about the attention we pay to the approximate 3,000 who die in home fires every year and consider more than 12 times that number die on the roads. It’s time we do something about that.

Of those who die on the roads, in the latest year where data was available – 2013 – 37 people died in crashes involving ambulances, fire trucks or police cars. An additional 17,028 were injured in those crashes.

And the problem is getting worse; in the first few months of 2019, 16 emergency responders have been killed by other vehicles. Sadly, according to the National Safety Council survey, the perception of 49% of participants is that for the responders being struck on the scene of incidents, it’s “just part of the risk” of being a first responder. Death on the highway should never be an expectation.

Take a few minutes to review this public opinion poll released by the National Safety Council in March 2019.

First Responder Public Opinion Poll Summary - March 2019 by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Partnering with the Emergency Responder Safety Institute (ERSI), the National Safety Council is championing Distracted Driver Awareness month. ERSI is the leading public safety non-profit advocating for universal roadway worker and first responder safety, and offers a plethora of resources for everyone to use.

Here are six things you can do to improve roadway operations safety:

  1. Comply with and wear ANSI certified reflective vests when operating in the roadway
  2. Comply with NFPA 1901: Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus; and the Triple K ambulance standard for ambulance markings
  3. Ensure all staff take traffic incident management (TIM) training
  4. Establish better relationships with all roadway worker elements (i.e., law enforcement, fire, EMS, towing professionals, construction workers)
  5. Use cones, signs and lane blocking techniques to protect our scenes, our patients and our staff
  6. Treat roadway scenes like radiation incidents (time, distance, shielding); limit your time on the roadway, shield yourself from the traffic and increase the distance between you and traffic

It past time to make a difference in roadway safety. Corporal Rosario considers his recovery from that not-so-lucky Saint Patrick’s Day a miracle. Indeed, I’d say he’s right. Stop making excuses for using the phone or being distracted by this or that when you’re behind the wheel, and follow these tips on the job – the next death might be you or one of your loved ones.

Chief Marc S. Bashoor joined the Lexipol team in 2018, serving as the FireRescue1 and Fire Chief executive editor and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board. With 40 years in emergency services, Chief Bashoor previously served as public safety director in Highlands County, Florida; as chief of the Prince George’s County (Maryland) Fire/EMS Department; and as emergency manager in Mineral County, West Virginia. Chief Bashoor assisted the NFPA with fire service missions in Brazil and China, and has presented at many industry conferences and trade shows. He has contributed to several industry publications. He is a National Pro-board certified Fire Officer IV, Fire Instructor III and Fire Instructor. Connect with Chief Bashoor at on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Do you have a leadership tip or incident you’d like to discuss? Send the chief an email.