Deploy ITS technologies including Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) for dispatchers and responders in traffic incident management.

Experience from the Florida Highway Patrol

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

Traffic incident management serves an essential function in managing the safety and efficiency of roadways. Incidents not only incur harm to those directly involved, they also lead to secondary negative outcomes including traffic delays, responders being exposed to the traffic stream (and being involved in “struck-by” incidents), and secondary incidents due to upstream vehicles approaching slower-moving or stopped vehicles. In fact, it is estimated that between one-half and two-thirds of the total congestion-related delay is attributable to traffic incidents in major metropolitan areas. Thus, the importance of incident management extends beyond those immediately in need but also to passing motorists and the community at large.

However, while not necessarily apparent, incident management is technically and organizationally complex. Responding efficiently and effectively requires planning, coordination, and cooperation. The application of ITS technologies can aid in the seven steps involved in incident response, which are: detection, verification, response, site management, traffic management, clearance, and recovery. An assessment of the incident management programs in Florida found that the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) employed key ITS technologies that facilitated response. The assessment report produced the following recommendations and lessons learned in terms of using ITS technologies in traffic incident management.
  • Consider implementing a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system to capture incident data. From the perspective of traffic incident management, a CAD allows agencies to analyze the response to an incident, assess incident response and find areas for improvement. A CAD allows dispatchers and responders to enter incident data into a database such as citations, names and license numbers of the individuals involved, and sensitive information intended for law-enforcement personnel. (Note that sensitive information is not necessarily stored in the CAD. The CAD used by the FHP does not include sensitive information.)
  • When entering data in a CAD, be sure to supplement crash codes with remarks or to expand the coding scheme to enable operators to summarize an incident fully. The FHP’s initial experience using the CAD to capture incident information revealed that the codes used to classify incidents had limitations. These limitations rendered it difficult for analysts to assess incident management performance. The CAD used codes for a crash (S4), a crash with roadblock (S4R), a crash with injuries (S4I), and a fatal crash (S7). CAD operators did not have codes available for a mix of elements in an incident, such as a “crash with injuries and roadblock.” Operators coded a fatal crash resulting from a run-off-road event the same way as a fatal crash resulting when a vehicle flipped in the roadway, blocking the freeway. Operators supplemented the codes by adding notes to the remarks field in the database. Note also that including time stamps to the events in an incident (such as “roadblock cleared”) allows analyst to re-construct the scene more accurately.
  • Consider equipping service patrols with Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) and implementing a uniform data collection system across the state. The Road Rangers, which is the service patrol in Florida, used PDAs on patrol in order to log information related to incident management and important for performance monitoring and measurement. At the time of the assessment reported in this lessons learned, the Road Rangers in Florida’s Districts 4 and 6 used PDAs. The Districts 4 and 6, having conceived of these projects independently, used different architectures, raising the concern that if the state were to expand the system, it would be useful if not necessary to make it uniform across the districts.
  • For major incident clearance, consider developing a program of quick-clearance incentives for responding contractors. Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise created the Roadway Incident Scene Clearance (RISC) program in which RISC contractors must follow specific performance objectives for incident response, and have incentives for quick clearance and disincentives for delayed clearance. RISC supplements the normal rotation tow list used by FHP and is only activated for major incidents.
  • Consider co-locating dispatch services with traffic management centers (TMC) to strengthen communication between the entities and provide dispatchers with access to TMC resources such as traffic cameras. Dispatchers located in local agencies may lack the resources of TMCs, and at times can be dependent upon receiving information from TMCs. For example, a major incident on a freeway can have repercussions due to overflow traffic on local streets. Communication from the TMC to local dispatch would help the local agency prepare for increased local traffic, say, by adjusting signal timing. Co-location does not necessarily translate into improved communications or access to resources. Sharing the same physical location is a condition that supports but does not guarantee improved communications. Lacking the ability to collocate does not preclude access to TMC resources, however. as reported of the Florida Turnpike Enterprise operations. The Turnpike Enterprise has a TMC in Ft. Lauderdale and one in Turkey Lake near Orlando. Although not co-located with the FHP, they are in close communication. For example, one of the Turnpike operators is stationed at the FHP dispatch station in West Palm Beach.

Traffic incident management requires planning, coordination and technology. The experiences of the FHP highlight effective innovations such as the development of a program dedicated to managing major incidents, the value of deploying technologies for data entry and management, and the potential for agencies to share resources and information. These improvements to Florida's traffic incident management practices are applicable to other metropolitan locations, and support safety and customer satisfaction goals.

Lesson Comments

No comments posted to date

Comment on this Lesson

To comment on this lesson, fill in the information below and click on submit. An asterisk (*) indicates a required field. Your name and email address, if provided, will not be posted, but are to contact you, if needed to clarify your comments.


Best Practices for Traffic Incident Management in Florida

Author: Center for UrbanTransportation Research (CUTR), University of South Florida

Published By: Center for UrbanTransportation Research (CUTR), University of South Florida

Source Date: 2005

URL: http://knowledge.fhwa.dot.gov/cops/OpsPublic.nsf/All+Documents/4C325E24DBBC142C852571E1005B5992/$FILE/FL_TIM%20Best%20Practices_2005.pdf

Lesson Contacts

Lesson Analyst:

Kathryn Wochinger
202 554-8107


Average User Rating

0 ( ratings)

Rate this Lesson

(click stars to rate)

Lesson ID: 2011-00570