After the recent death of Fire Chief Wesley Adams of the Sedgwick Fire Department in an accident where he was struck by a vehicle while working an wreck scene Hwy 63, many have ask how this can be avoided.

Walnut Ridge Fire Department has implemented a policy of closing all lanes of traffic while firefighters are on scene.

According to Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Chris Jones the department had already put this policy into place before the accident that occurred this week in Sedgwick.

Jones stated that traffic on the four lanes is especially dangerous for firefighters.

Chief Jones stated that “when the ambulance clears the scene and no other hazards are present, we are going to clear the scene” until then while fire personnel are on scene expect the highway to be blocked by fire department vehicles.

Jones said that Walnut Ridge Fire is going to “Lead By Example” and he hopes other departments will review their policy and make similar changes.

We spoke with several firefighters today that stated traffic control is the most dangerous part of fire service.

Firefighters we spoke with expressed concerns with drivers being distracted while driving through accident scenes thus increasing the chances of an emergency worker being struck by a vehicle.

Drivers stopped in traffic after an accident should understand that lanes are blocked for the protection of firefighters, EMS and police officers.

Here are a few tips if you approach an accident scene:

Most important, REDUCE SPEED as you approach an accident scene

Stay focused, sometimes flashing emergency lights can distract a driver as they approach an accident scene

Stay off any cellular devices even “hands free” as this may distract you

Act quickly. If you are one of the first drivers to witness the crash and suspect there is injury to one or more of the vehicle occupants’ call 911 immediately. But pull over safely to do so, first. Safety experts generally recommend you park your car safely out of the traffic lanes and turn on your emergency flashers. Do not attempt to move any of the injured persons. This can cause a minor injury to turn into a serious one. Turn off the ignition switches on vehicles involved in the accident to reduce the risk of fire and wait for the EMT’s and police to arrive.

Do not panic. Drivers who panic at the scene of the accident can cause another accident. Some drivers overreact by swerving or making a sudden exit and cutting off other vehicles to avoid the traffic congestion.

Do not stare. Keep your eyes focused on the road and what is ahead of you. Avoid “rubbernecking.” This can cause a slowdown and puts you, your passengers and others on the road at risk. Paying too much attention to the accident can cause you to miss brake lights ahead and dangerous road debris.

Pay attention to signs, detours and traffic patterns. Be a defensive driver and scan the traffic ahead, just not what is in front of you. This will increase your chances of being able to spot a problem, while still having enough time to react, which will decreases the chance of a rear-end collision.