DOT, police push for quicker cleanups

Published: Nov. 14, 2017 at 7:02 AM CST
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More than 50,000 car crashes take up Iowa resources every year. Many of them can tie up first responders for several hours at a time.

On Monday, the Iowa Department of Transportation hosted an open house to talk about how they're working to clean up the scene faster and make your ride home safer.

One horrible, deadly crash is on the mind of Allen Fleener every time he goes to work.

"Somebody didn't get over when they saw the lights and they got hit and then unfortunately our two drivers passed away," said Fleener.

Fleener and his team at Hanifen Towing help clean up hundreds of crashes every year. He's been a driver for six years now, starting just two months after that crash happened.

He says the revised law has barely made a difference

"Every once in a while you'll have a situation where there's two lanes--two lanes-- next to you, and they'll still buzz you," said Fleener. "That happened the other night."

So, it's up to the other agencies to clean the scene faster.

"We want to make sure that we're not on the road any longer than necessary," said Sgt. Brett Tjepkes of the Iowa State Patrol. "We know that when we're out there with our cars and equipment and all of those lights flashing, we're a distraction just being there."

"You never know if you're going to be coming home, especially when there's cars and semis and motorcycles and nobody gets over for you," said Fleener. "You constantly wonder if you're going to go home to your family that night or not."

Fleener says bigger fines might change people's attitudes. But until that happens, Ames' fire commander Doug Allen is working with other departments to improve communication, to aid in cleanup, during these emergencies.

And that means they can't leave the crash site to chase down someone who got too close.

"The real priority is to get the people from the first incident the help they need right up front," said Allen.

"The law is in place for a reason, and it just sucks when all of these motorists do not follow the law," said Fleener.

One other way first responders are hoping to cut down on time on accident scenes is through a universal radio system. That way they'll know exactly what the other crews have already done at the scene. There's no timeline for when that would be in place, but they tell us the sooner it happens, the better.

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