It’s only been a year since its inception, but the Arizona Department of Transportation's Incident Response Unit has proved its worth in helping decrease crashes, aid drivers and improve traffic flow on Valley freeways.
Since hitting the road in October 2019, the 14-member unit, part of ADOT’s Traffic Systems Management and Operations Division, has responded to more than 10,400 crashes, disabled vehicles, debris or other incidents in the Phoenix metro area.
Driver feedback on the program has been overwhelmingly positive with feedback using the words “outstanding,” “a blessing,” “above and beyond” and “fantastic” to describe the service.
“Your IRU unit at l-10 west about 91st Ave was a great help. I had a blow out during rush hour during the rain,” one motorist wrote. “I have nothing but praise for this person and this program.”
About 250 motor vehicle collisions occur each day on metro Phoenix freeways, most of them requiring a response from law enforcement, fire departments, transportation crews or tow trucks. The Incident Response Unit also responds to provide a variety of support, ranging from setting up traffic control to moving vehicles involved in minor crashes. In addition, units may be called upon to assist stranded motorists.
State Farm began sponsoring the Incident Response Unit in February, similar to other safety patrols it sponsors in 19 other states. The sponsorship supports highway safety and helps ensure drivers get home safely.
“Our support of the Arizona DOT Incident Response Unit program embodies our ‘good neighbor’ philosophy,” said Matthew Coleman, State Farm Marketing Director. “It also underscores the continued commitment State Farm has to auto safety, while helping people recover from the unexpected, which is the heart of the State Farm mission.”
By improving traffic flow after crashes, the unit reduces the potential for secondary crashes, which often are more destructive than the initial crashes, while helping motorists get where they need to be. This work helps free Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers to concentrate on investigations and respond to other situations on Phoenix-area freeways.
Mark Brown, the Traffic Incident Management and IRU program administrator, said in the past incidents on the freeway were handled by maintenance workers. These crews would have to stop their work, return to a yard to pick up vehicles and equipment and then respond to the crash scene.
By having a dedicated, mobile team, response times have been cut to a matter of minutes, rather than the sometimes hour-plus it used to be. That means crews can move fast to prevent potential crashes.
“We’re able to quickly respond to help drivers or remove debris,” Brown said. “We’re able to keep traffic moving, which is important to reduce the chance of a secondary crash.”
The Incident Response Unit patrols Phoenix-area freeways from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, ready to assist state troopers and the public.
Editor's note: This press release was published by ADOT on Oct. 6.