By K C Pawling, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist
After a successful completion of the NIRMA Self -Defense Conference, I am finding that we have interest and questions regarding a presentation that Todd Duncan, the Law Enforcement and Safety Specialist, and I presented at the conference, “It Takes Two to Effectively Manage Risks from Auto Accidents on County Roadways”. Some folks could not make it to our session, so I wanted to just highlight some of the information that we presented. This article was intended to go along with the Safety Shorts article that Todd has written. So please take the time and read his article if you have not.
When you as a road department are notified by the sheriff’s office, or if you learn of an accident by other means, you need to conduct your own accident review, we do not want to rely solely on the law enforcement report. When conducting your review, you are going to be looking at and documenting many aspects that law enforcement probably will not be documenting. The documentation will include reports, sketches, and photos. I would also like to stress that we do not want to discuss the accident with anyone other than investigating law enforcement, the county attorney, county management and NIRMA.
When you head out to do your review, make sure that you have some report forms that will help guide you through all the items that you need to collect information on. You will want to focus on roadway geometrics, sight distance (usually at 3.5 feet height) and visibility of intersecting traffic if it is a multi-vehicle accident. Make sure to note and photograph any hills, weeds, trees, and brush at the crash scene. I also want you to take pictures of things that you would not believe contributed to the accident, for example, height of grass in the right of way, any objects that are in the right of way, and even farm equipment that could be sitting on the edge of a field. While you are looking at line-of-sight concerns, you should take pictures at the line of eye height of vehicles involved in the crash, either the typical 3.5 feet standard passenger vehicle height, or the height of a different type of vehicle.
Signs are another item that you will be documenting. Pictures should be taken at the time of arrival to the scene. This ensures that the presence of the signs has been documented. Pictures need to be taken of all the damaged signs also, we want to document everything, even downed signs. Were the signs damaged due to the accident or vandalism? Again, document all of this with photos. Measurements should also be taken of sign height and location of installation. Is the sight of any signs obscured by any trees and brush that hasn’t been managed? Take more pictures.
Pictures of the road surface should be taken. Include any skid marks, noting the length of skid marks, using the length noted on the law enforcement’s report. Also note the condition of the road, any potholes, ruts, washboards? Is the road muddy, or any other conditions of the road that may be a result of any recent weather events?
We also ask you to video the scene while driving through. If it involves a location at an intersection, get a video from all four approaching directions. This gives us a “real time” view of the scene. You may just pick something up in the video that you would not otherwise see.
When you have the accident review completed, you need to send NIRMA the review, the past 6 months of grading and signing records, and a copy of the law enforcement accident report. Remember to include all the photos and videos that you have taken. The efficacy of NIRMA’s help is directly related to the information you produce and provide us.
If this seems like a lot, it is. It can be hard to remember all that we ask you to do to help us – help you. We do have accident review forms available on the NIRMA website, and I can help you find those if you would like. I am also available to assist you with any aspect of the accident review process. Just let me know what I can do to help you. I also want you to remember to ask for accident reports from law enforcement if you are not automatically receiving them.
Any deficiencies, signs, or road, that are found during the review process need to be corrected immediately. This is not something you want to do days after the fact. Also document the corrections that have been made and when they are completed.