Just how long does it take to clear the average crash?

Dec 13, 2018, 8:04 AM | Updated: 11:24 am
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Drivers have had to deal with hours-long delays twice this week because of major semi-truck crashes. How often do we experience crashes take this? And how long does it take for our state’s incident response teams to clear them?

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Every eight minutes and 18 seconds between July and September, the state’s incident response trucks were called to handle some sort of incident. That’s nearly 16,000 problems they responded-to in the third quarter of this year, a slight decrease of the same period last year, but when you consider that the IRT teams only cover about 18 percent of the state’s roads, that’s a big number.

In more than a quarter of those responses, at least one lane was blocked. That highlights how often cars are hitting each other or breaking down or police are working with someone along state roads.


For every one minute a lane is blocked, the congestion behind it grows by four to 10 minutes. That would explain why the average Washington driver wastes nearly two weeks of their year stuck in traffic.

The average time to clear those problems was about 13 minutes, slightly higher than the third quarter of last year, but the number of problems that took more than 90-minutes to clear jumped nearly seven percent.

There were 219 incidents IRT responded to during this time that took more than 90 minutes to clear. Of those, there were 12 of what the state calls “extraordinary incidents” that took an average of just over 12 hours to clear. That’s about the same number as last year.

We’re still waiting to get the year-to-date information, but you can see that there is plenty for the 69 IRT trucks deployed in our state’s most congested areas to do.

If you can steer it, clear it

That’s why is it is so important to move your car to the shoulder, if you can, to help reduce congestion. We all should follow the state law that says, in essence, if you can steer it, clear it.  We are required to move our cars out of the way, as long as there are no injuries. Do not exchange your insurance information in the middle of the road and certainly not in the middle of the freeway. You can still take pictures of the damage once your car is off to the shoulder. Get out of the way. If need be, the police can still do their work out of the lanes of traffic.

What would our lives look like without the IRT trucks on the roads? Those accidents wouldn’t be cleared as quickly, and we’d waste even more time and gas sitting in congestion. The state estimates that the IRT program provided about $25 million in economic benefit in the third quarter.


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Just how long does it take to clear the average crash?