Table of Contents

5.1.8 Traffic Incident Site Management, Investigation and Clearance

Site management

Site management is the management of resources to remove the incident and reduce the impact on traffic flow. It involves coordination of activities by various responding agency personnel and provides for safety at the incident scene. Detailed information is available in Commentary 4.

One of the key tasks in incident site management is controlling traffic at the scene, particularly to maintain responder and public safety. Maintenance of traffic flow around the incident scene, once the injured have been attended to, is also an important means of reducing congestion and delay and reducing the risk of secondary incidents.

Application of traffic control measures near the incident scene can be initially undertaken by the first responder whether police, fire or incident response unit. Limited availability of traffic control devices to first responders may restrict the standard to which this can initially be done but it is important to get traffic moving, safely, as soon as possible and this can be achieved through positive traffic control – providing clear delineation of the path through an incident scene and having a controller continuously directing traffic past the scene. This achieves the objectives of both getting traffic moving and maximising safety.

Figure 5.3 shows an example of site management and traffic control measures being applied at the site of a crash.

Incident scenes should be considered as temporary work zones, with all the attendant requirements of using the appropriate traffic control devices as quickly as they can be made available, allowing sufficient buffer zones for responder safety and emphasising traffic awareness for responders.

Figure 5.3: Incident scene – site management


Source: Roads and Traffic Authority (n.d.), (unpublished photograph).


Investigation aims to document the causes of traffic incidents, to assign liability for any damages, fulfil the requirements of insurance, to provide data for traffic engineers, and for serious traffic crashes involving serious injuries, fatalities, or suspected criminal activities, evidence is required to be collected and reported to the coroner.

Investigation techniques range from manual measurement through to sophisticated technology to assist gathering of data for analysis and reporting. Use of appropriate cost-effective technology can dramatically reduce the time required to collect evidence and hence reduce the time the road is closed to traffic.

Incident clearance

Incident clearance is the safe and timely removal of any stalled vehicles, wreckage, debris, or spilled material from the roadway and its shoulders and the restoration of the roadway to its full capacity. Incident clearance is typically the most time-consuming step in the incident management process – in the order of twice the duration of other steps in the process. More information is available in Commentary 5.

  • Agree upon a protocol for who controls the site/event: the inner cordon (i.e. immediate incident scene) and outer cordon – (area surrounding the outer perimeter of the incident scene) managing traffic around the incident scene.
  • Build stronger partnerships and operating procedures between key responders and develop inter‑agency agreements aimed at improving quick clearance through joint operations protocols.
  • Establish an agreed, high level, aggressive quick clearance or open roads policy at government level, enact quick clearance laws and regulations – giving authority to clear traffic lanes, limiting or avoiding liability, recovering costs and providing incentives to road users.
  • Establish quick clearance targets, such as clearance of all incidents within 90 minutes.
  • In tunnels, rapid response to incidents is critical. Consider a dedicated incident response and clearance capability.
  • Improve crash investigation procedures and provide appropriate technologies to ensure accurate, timely investigation.
  • Introduce innovative public-private partnerships that facilitate incident clearance and provision of traffic information – such as performance based towing/salvage contracts.
  • Hold formal systematic debriefs to provide feedback and ongoing improvement.
  • Collect and analyse better data and information.
  • Contract heavy towing/salvage equipment on stand-by during peak periods.
  • Conduct post-incident debriefings (soon after major incidents) to evaluate and refine existing protocols and procedures.