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Improving Roadside Responder Crash Data: Outcomes from an Expert Roundtable Discussion

This brief highlights a roundtable discussion that sought to identify ways to improve data about the safety of incident response and emergency services personnel working on the side of the road. Recommendations are made based on information provided by the panel of experts.

December 2021

Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety


Incident response and emergency services personnel, including police, firefighters, emergency medical services, and towing operators, are at risk of being struck by passing motorists while they are working at the roadside. Stakeholders such as AAA and others strive to reduce these professionals’ risk of being injured or killed on the job through advocacy, education, and implementation of other safety measures. However, at present, such efforts are greatly limited by a lack of comprehensive, high-quality data on the incidence, as well as the details, of crashes involving this population and the associated injuries and deaths. Such data are fundamental to the design, tracking, and appraisal of national, state, or regional countermeasures to enhance the safety of these workers.

This Research Brief describes highlights from a roundtable discussion hosted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that sought to identify ways to improve data about the safety of incident response and emergency services personnel. A panel of experts was convened to discuss issues and efforts surrounding data on crashes involving roadside responders. The overarching aim was to help improve the overall accounting of roadside service providers killed and injured each year while assisting other motorists in order to learn more about the circumstances of these tragic incidents. Toward these ends, the panel was asked to reflect on two main questions:

  1. What are the limitations or barriers in current crash data involving roadside responders?

  2. What solutions, techniques, or approaches can be used to improve and augment existing data?

Key Findings

A number of recommendations have been distilled, based on the rich information provided by the panel of experts. They are not independent of one another, nor is the list exhaustive. Collectively (and ideally), they represent areas where positive steps can be taken towards establishing better estimates of crashes involving roadside responders and gaining better insight into the circumstances surrounding such instances. In the figures below, the recommendations are grouped into three categories, however these are not mutually exclusive.


Two 2-hour discussions were held virtually in June 2021. As shown in the table below, a diverse group of nine experts participated in the discussion, representing a mixture of different backgrounds and job roles, including academic researchers, epidemiologists, a crash investigator, a federal program manager, a research statistician, a program analyst, and an insurance risk control professional. Collectively, this group had experience and knowledge of safety and health surveillance programs, work-related injuries, on-site investigations, service providers, EMS and first responder safety, towing safety, worker’s compensation, national- and state-level data, operational strategies for databases, and occupational injury and illness.

The main points of the conversation are summarized in the Brief. Based on this information, several recommendations were subsequently generated.


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