Our greatest danger: Drunk and distracted motorists

Roadway safety studies, reports and guidelines should be required reading for all firefighters

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel looks at the tragic death of Loganville Fire Chief Rodney Miller and urges us to take a hard look at how we can accomplish the seemingly impossible — staying safe working around traffic.

I know you all join me in extending our collective thoughts and prayers to Chief Miller's family, friends, and the members of the Loganville Fire Department.

I will readily admit that I'm very sensitive to first responder injuries, deaths, and safety along our nation's highways and byways. Like many FireRescue1 readers, I've lost count of how many times I've stopped, on- and off-duty, to render aid at a vehicle crash or other incident along a roadway while traffic continued whizzing by.

Also like many of you, I've had my share of near-misses through the years as I've watched drivers, some of whom were even in emergency vehicles, do things I never would have imagined.

We know, from this tragic incident in Pennsylvania and countless others, that drivers, especially drunk or distracted ones, will drive over, around and through almost anything in their paths. This includes flares, cones, signs, ambulances, patrol cars, even heavy apparatus; nothing, and nowhere, is safe along the roadway.

It's a difficult problem. We get the calls, we respond, and we hopefully do whatever we can to warn and/or block traffic to make the scene safe. But still, we see too many instances where firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and law enforcement personnel are killed or injured along the road.

The U.S. Fire Administration and many of its organizational partners have produced numerous reports, studies and guidelines on roadway incident safety.

These should be required reading for all firefighters, but even so, I can't help wondering what else we can do, together with our partners from other disciplines, to positively influence responder safety along our communities' roads.

Any ideas?

Stay safe!

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