A car accident doesn’t end when the vehicles involved cease to move. A car wreck, especially one with fatalities, can have far-reaching effects – on traffic, on witnesses, and most significantly on the families left behind. It can be a challenge determining exactly what happened, when it happened and who was involved. But oftentimes, another, different issue is added to the mix. Local officials in Atlanta, Georgia face a challenge of a different sort. In a city where traffic becomes snarled as soon as rush hour (a more accurate phrase would be “rush hours”) hits, a car crash can cause significant and long-lasting damage. The response times of both police officers and medical officials are slowed by the already high volume of motor vehicles on the road, and the bystander delays that result when an accident occurs exacerbate the problem and increase the likelihood that emergency crews will be injured or secondary accidents will occur.
A checklist published by one state’s transportation organization highlights the importance of quickly clearing an accident scene – and it is a checklist that appears to be fairly standard across the national board. In fact, the first three priorities include: 1.) Life safety and attending to the injured at the scene. 2.) Incident stabilization and minimizing any impact the incident may have on the surrounding area and 3.) Restoring traffic to normal and reopening the roads as soon as possible. In Atlanta, officials have already spent millions on various instruments and programs designed to increase the safety of clearing accident scenes and preventing delays. Yet even though the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority says instruments like digital signs, HERO units, and mounted cameras have cut response times, for some reason, as car accident attorneys in Atlanta are well aware, these things do not seem to be working as well as they could.
This problem drew intense scrutiny in a recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, where the writer, Craig Schneider, examined claims by police responding to a recent I-285 wreck that it took staff from the medical examiner’s office upwards of two hours to respond to an accident scene. The aforementioned AJC article, written by Craig Schneider, says that this particular incident “brought into sharp focus two competing pressures: the desire by emergency personnel to perform a thorough investigation and show respect to the deceased, versus the frustration and economic losses associated with keeping thousands of people from their jobs.” Add a fatality in to the mix and the frustration of drivers triples as an extensive and thorough investigation, and complete collection of all remains is necessarily added to the checklist. Responding officers and medical staff not only have to respect the time of the drivers on the road, but they also have to respect the deceased – a point that many Georgia drivers find increasingly hard to consider when their own schedule is being interrupted by hour-long delays.
So can Atlanta motorists expect any additional changes any time soon? There is one unconventional method being adopted nationally. According to the article, some transportation planners are “promoting laws and policies that allow police or other emergency personnel to work via phone with a coroner or medical examiner to certify a traffic death. Several municipalities have adopted such policies, which are designated as a “best practice” by the Federal Highway Administration.”
A similar proposal has made its way to Georgia and the desk of Governor Nathan Deal. The Open Roads Policy he signed last November includes an addendum that, if approved by individual municipalities, will allow the removal of a body without the coroner or medical examiner being present at the crash site. It’ll definitely be a development that Atlanta motorists will want to keep an eye on.