CLEARing the way for emergency services

The Highways Agency is re-opening lanes and carriageways more quickly following motorway incidents thanks to close collaboration with ambulance, fire and police crews.

The CLEAR protocol was introduced in 2011 to help the Highways Agency minimise the economic impact of road incidents and cut the resulting disruption to road users.

Highways Agency director of customer operations, Simon Sheldon-Wilson, said:

‘When incidents occur, our main priority is to safely clear the road and reopen it quickly. Any unnecessary delays in re-opening roads causes congestion for customers using our network, disrupts communities, and costs the economy tens of thousands of pounds.

‘For the emergency services, the focus is on rescuing and treating casualties, tackling fires or investigating the cause of the incident.

‘Therefore, it’s essential we work effectively with fire, police and ambulance crews, so everyone can do their job properly during a high-pressure incident on the motorway.’

Just one incident can force the closure of a three-lane motorway for several hours at a cost millions of pounds in lost time. About 77,000 incidents impact at least one motorway lane each year.

Since the launch of CLEAR, the Highways Agency has introduced several measures to speed up traffic incident management and keep vehicles moving after road incidents.

These include incident screens, which prevent congestion from rubbernecking by hiding the scene of an incident; load cells, which allow traffic officers to legally and safely clear larger vehicles from live carriageways; spill kits for dealing with petrol and diesel on the road surface; and response vehicle safety and visibility improvements, such as alternating flashing headlamps and bullhorns.

Most notable for the emergency services is investment in 38 laser scanners, which allows police investigators to capture evidence—and so re-open roads—more quickly at incident scenes.

Further improvements being investigated include measures to right and clear overturned vehicles, special lighting for incident scenes, and the implementation of CCTV in traffic officer vehicles.

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 10 September 2014.

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