There's a law on the books that a lot of folks don't realize is there, but it affects your commute any time there's an accident. It's called Steer it and Clear it.
Lt. Nate Clarke, of the Wisconsin State Patrol Bureau of Support Services says this law has been on the books for 20 years.
The Steer It, Clear It Law (1997 WI Act 258, WI Statutes 346.67-68 and 349.13):
- Requires drivers involved in crashes - if the vehicle is able to be driven and no one is injured in the crash - to move the vehicle to a location where it will obstruct traffic as little as possible.
- Permits law enforcement and other response agencies to quickly remove vehicles, crash debris and spilled materials.
- Grants immunity from civil damages to any person who, at the direction of law enforcement, removes or stores a disabled vehicle, crash debris or other obstruction. Civil damages may still be incurred for failure to exercise reasonable care in these efforts or for conduct that is willful, reckless or malicious.
The issue tends to be, that we have always been taught if you're in an accident, not to move your car as there may be important evidence.
"Property damage crash, they're pretty simple to figure out. We can do that from the safety of the road side or the crash investigation sites," says Lt. Clarke.
So we don't need to stay put, as a matter of fact, it's a better idea, if there are no injuries, to get the car out of traffic as soon as possible. Hence, the law.
Every 1 minute a car is blocking traffic, translates into at least 4 minutes of delay. So a vehicle is in traffic for 5 minutes equals at least 20 minutes worth of delays. Aggravating, to say the least.
What if there are injuries?
"Personal injury crashes are not covered under the Steer it and Clear it law. That's something that we do want to be able to get eyes on. It's a little bit more serious and there may be some criminal impacts resulting from those crashes." says Lt. Clarke.
So here's a step-by-step on what you can do if you're involved in an accident on our freeways:
1) Confirm that there are no injuries to the parties involved.
2) Once this is confirmed, move your vehicles to a safe location, preferably the right shoulder if possible, or even to one of the Crash Investigation Sites if one is nearby.
This will help law enforcement to get to you quickly and safely to get you on your way ASAP.
If you're worried about the other party of the accident taking off without exchanging any information, make a note of the license plate as well as a description of the vehicle. You can even take a photo with your phone to document that info as well as the other driver.
3) Once you're out of traffic safely, call 911 and let them know you've moved your vehicles and wait for law enforcement to arrive and give you further guidance.
4) Above all, stay in your vehicle! Secondary crashes are a real danger.
Lt. Clarke says "Statistics show that about a fifth of secondary crashes result in fatalities. So the safest place for a human being is inside the protection systems of a motor vehicle."
Just remember, the best thing you can do for a property damage crash, is to get out of traffic, onto the side of the road or to a crash investigation site.
"If you can Steer it you can Clear it."