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Missouri Open Roads Agreement aims to quickly clear traffic accidents

The Missouri Department of Transportation and the Missouri State Highway Patrol signed the Missouri Open Roads Agreement on Thursday, a first-of-its-kind document that provides guidance to emergency responders clearing incidents from Missouri highways.

The goal of the agreement is to have traffic accidents cleared from roads in 90 minutes or less from the time the first responder arrives on the scene.

The agencies ask drivers to do their part and stay alert, slow down and to move over to give them room to work when they drive past a car accident.

According to a press release from MoDOT, there were more than 131,000 traffic crashes in Missouri in 2020. Currently the department's emergency response personnel respond to more than 6,000 traffic accidents each month on average.

Owen Hasson is the traffic incident manager for MoDOT. Hasson said the Open Roads Agreement has been in the works in Missouri for the last few years.

"It's actually a national law," Hasson said. "It's really kind of a 'national best practices' for states to look at through federal highways."

Hasson also said the agreement focuses on communication, cooperation and coordination between agencies. The quicker accidents are cleaned up, the less likely there is a second accident, according to Hasson.

"Trying to get the lanes open is the main objective," Hasson said. "Normal traffic flow typically doesn't happen until the last responder leaves the scene."

Tyler Doyle is the owner Tiger Towing in Columbia. Every seven weeks, Tiger Towing is responsible for every accident, tow-away, illegally parked car and broken down vehicle during that seventh week.

Doyle said he tries to get his workers on the scene within 30 minutes of the crash occurring. He says it also depends on where the crash is.

"We try to get out there as fast as we can [and] get it all cleaned up," Doyle said. "By the time it's all done [it's] usually about 30 to 40 minutes [later] for us."

Doyle said Tiger Towing has responded to about 20 crashes so far this week. He also said crashes mostly occur during breakfast, lunch and dinner time.

Hasson cannot guarantee that every wreck will be cleared up within 90 minutes, but it is rather a goal the agencies are shooting for.

"That is what we're striving toward," Hasson said. "Using all response partners and techniques hopefully we can start achieving that and start reducing the secondary crashes and actually start saving some of the lives of the responders who are working these wrecks."

KOMU 8 is a full-powered NBC affiliate operating as an independent commercial property. As such, KOMU 8 is the only major network affiliate in the United States that acts as a university-owned commercial television station utilizing its newsroom as a working lab for students.