Moving or waiting after you’re in a fender bender

The in basket: Paul Krause wrote in February with a plea that those involved in a minor accident between Bremerton and Gorst help keep their mishap from backing up traffic on Highway 3.

“The traffic jam 2/7/2013 caused by a fender bender resulted in 1.5 hours waiting in a traffic jam,” he said. “This costs local employers thousands in overtime paid to employees. Another thought is the devastating amount of emissions added to our atmosphere because of idling.

“If you are involved in a mechanical failure or fender bender, you must move to the nearest exit,” he said. “Heading northbound from Gorst, move it all the way to the Charleston Highway (Navy Yard Highway) or the Loxie Eagans Boulevard exit.  If heading southbound you must move your car to the gas station in Gorst and not use the middle area to pull off.

“There are regulatory signs posted in the area to remind of the importance to keep moving until a wider area of the road,” Paul said.

“It is time for a causeway or some sort of bridge over Sinclair Inlet to create better traffic flow and an alternative routes for evacuations,” he said. “Yes, make it a toll bridge,” he concluded.

The out basket: Paul is far more specific in his recommendations than the authorities are, but there are signs on the stretch telling drivers to move to a safe location if they are in a fender bender and not wait around for law enforcement to arrive at the crash scene. Fender bender means no one is injured.

I told Trooper Russ Winger of the State Patrol here that I’d always figured those signs were intended to remove the distraction that backs up traffic and to keep things flowing. I asked him about Paul’s e-mail.

The out basket: “The primary reasoning is to clear the roadway so traffic can flow and driver/occupants are not exposed,”Russ said. “Dealing with the visual distractions is very helpful but not always possible.

“We are not really in the business of telling drivers exactly where to move off too. If the parties have some common sense, they can figure out something. If not, just moving off the road is sufficient, then when we get there or other law enforcement arrives, they can get the parties to a safer spot. The location may dictate the options available.

“In any type of collision involving injuries,” Russ said, “the parties should wait at the scene. In situations where vehicles are moved to remote locations prior to law enforcement’s arrival, the actual scene disappears and officers are left to investigate from driver statements and evidence that may or may not be present on the roadway.

“This is important because we are in the business of investigating collisions rather than simply reporting them,” Russ said. “There is a substantial difference.”

The idea of a bridging Sinclair Inlet or creating another route around it has been kicked around for years, but it’s so far down the list of proposed projects, I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime.

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