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Improving Safety for Crash Responders and Maintenance Crews Around Pennsylvania

November 29, 2023 01:00 PM
By: Zachary Appleby

Squirrel Hill tunnel crew

After successful use of the HAAS Safety Alert Cloud system in District 11, PennDOT is implementing responder-to-vehicle notifications statewide.  

As the only district with a tunnel maintenance organization, District 11, based in the Pittsburgh region, is home to the Fort Pitt, Squirrel Hill, Liberty and Stowe tunnels. District 11’s tunnel system presents a unique challenge as any time an incident occurs inside or even near the tunnels, it has a significant impact on traffic and can make responding to incidents difficult and unsafe for tunnel maintenance crews and other first responders.

With tunnel crews responding to an average of 2,600 incidents each year, they are responsible for operating tow trucks to clear lanes and crash trucks to protect incident scenes, and to assist first responders.

To aid in these efforts and improve safety, the district began leveraging a crash-prevention technology that connects emergency lights and sirens with navigation apps. The HAAS Alert Safety Cloud is a Responder-to-Vehicle system that alerts motorists using the Waze app of first responders at incidents when emergency lights are activated. Since 2021, all vehicles used to respond to incidents in the tunnels have been outfitted with the HAAS Alert Safety Cloud equipment. Since its implementation in District 11, more than 111,000 notifications have been sent to drivers to help protect tunnel maintenance crews and first responders.

“First responders and highway workers being struck by passing motorists while working on roadways is a very real danger,” said County Maintenance Manager Ben DeVore. “We want to take every step we can to prevent this from happening in Pennsylvania.”  

 Maintenance Trucks Deploying In D11 Tunnels

Now, PennDOT is working to implement a similar system around the state to improve safety for work crews and crash responders. 

As in District 11, the state-wide system will be powered by information provided by PennDOT’s Data Exchange, including real-time Department vehicle location information for all trucks that have Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) systems installed and are currently in work zones or engaged in maintenance activities. The system will send alert to motorists to the incident via Waze and other apps.

The received notifications, and subsequent incident avoidance by drivers, will allow PennDOT maintenance crews, staff and first responders more rapid access on scene and improve safety overall.

PennDOT’s Data Exchange is expected to be up and running by the end of Spring 2024.  The Data Exchange will allow PennDOT to share Department vehicle location information with Waze and others in near real time.  

Statewide, the system is expected to continue to reduce crashes involving emergency response vehicles during incidents.