First Responder Roadside Vehicle Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) supports programs to ensure the safety of First Responders working on the Nation’s roads.  Traffic incidents involving fire, emergency medical services (EMS), and law enforcement personnel are routine occurrences on America’s roads.  NHTSA endeavors to improve the safety of first responder personnel on the roadside.

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), Section 2014, First Responder Roadside Vehicle Safety, requires that NHTSA develop and implement a comprehensive program to address the safety of first responders.  The statute directs the agency to:

Related Links
Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative - FA-272/August 2004
IACP Patrol Vehicle Safety
National Traffic Incident Management Coalition
  • Promote compliance with State and local laws intended to increase the safe and efficient operation of first responder vehicles;
  • Compile a list of best practices by State and local governments to promote compliance with the laws;
  • Analyze State and local laws intended to increase the safe and efficient operation of first responder vehicles; and
  • Develop model legislation to increase the safe and efficient operation of first responder vehicles.

In November 2006, NHTSA hosted a meeting of law enforcement, prosecutors, emergency responders, and other interested parties to assist in the development of a comprehensive model program for use by States to address first responder safety.  This effort included development of a model law on first responder safety. Additionally, NHTSA has developed training materials for all first responders that focus on first responder roadside safety.

With its law enforcement, EMS, and fire service partners, NHTSA was involved with the Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative, an effort spearheaded by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) with support from the Department of Transportation.  As a separate part of this cooperative effort, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) researched and evaluated State best practices in first responder roadside safety.

NHTSA also worked closely with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances (NCUTLO) to develop a “move over” model law.  As of 2008, 40 States have instituted “move-over” laws.  The goal of such legislation is to ensure the safety of emergency personnel while working in or around the roadway. While laws vary in terms of specific provisions and penalties, they specify that traffic must slow down and, if possible, move over to an adjacent traffic lane.  Both the IACP and the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) have adopted resolutions in support of uniformity in “move-over” laws.