Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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Components - Incident clearance law

Incident clearance | When to call police | Information exchange

When an incident occurs on a freeway or expressway it immediately creates a dangerous situation. Wisconsin's incident clearance law provides safer conditions for individuals involved in collisions and improves the ability of law enforcement and other response agencies to quickly manage and clear incidents.

One of the key factors hindering fast cleanup of incidents is the potential for loss or damage to vehicles, crash debris, or other obstructions caused by the removal from an incident scene. Crash debris most often consists of vehicles and spilled cargo that create dangerous conditions on the freeway system.

The state's incident clearance law grants immunity from civil damages to any person who removes or stores a disabled vehicle, crash debris or other obstructions, unless the conduct is willful, reckless or malicious.

The incident clearance law also increases the authority of traffic officers to remove or order the removal of disabled vehicles from freeways or expressways.

The removal may be performed by the traffic officer or may be contracted by the local authorities such as a tow operator. If a third party removes the vehicle it is the responsibility of the operator or vehicle owner to pay the charges incurred for removal/towing or any storage.

In addition, the incident clearance law requires individuals involved in incidents with their vehicles to stop without obstructing traffic more than necessary. This provision seeks to prevent the occurrence of secondary crashes by the careless positioning of vehicles after incidents.

The incident clearance law aids law enforcement and other response agencies to quickly clear vehicles, crash debris, spilled materials and other obstructions from the freeway. It also provides safer conditions and allows the traffic flow to quickly return to normal.

Steps to the safe and quick clearance of incidents

Typical incidents include: stalled vehicles, major/minor crashes, overturned vehicles or a spilled load. Action required in the event of an incident:

  • Check for injuries. Notify the nearest police station, sheriff's office, state trooper or EMS immediately if anyone is injured or killed.
  • If there are no injuries, check your vehicle. If you can steer it - clear it. This means if you are blocking traffic and your vehicle can still be driven, act responsibly to move your vehicle out of the way. This can be done before exchanging information with other vehicles involved in the crash.
  • When an incident occurs on a freeway you must move your vehicle as soon as possible. Designated crash investigation sites provide safe areas to exchange information and handle minor repairs.
  • Warn oncoming traffic of the incident or hazard to prevent secondary crashes. Some common warning practices include raising the hood of the vehicle and using flares. In order to let motorists know you need assistance, tie a white handkerchief to the door of the vehicle, wave a red flag or use a flashlight.

Remember, if you are waiting for assistance, be patient. Crossing a roadway or attempting to stop traffic can be dangerous.

When to contact the police

It is necessary to contact the police under the following circumstances:

  • When there are injuries.
  • When the vehicles cannot be moved.
  • When one of the drivers is intoxicated.
  • When one of the drivers has no insurance.
  • When one of the drivers leaves the scene of the crash.

Information exchange

When involved in an incident, remember to exchange the following information with the person involved:

  • Give your name, address, telephone number, vehicle identification number, vehicle license plate number, vehicle description, insurance information (policy number and expiration date) and drivers license number to the person involved in the incident.
  • Obtain the same information from the person involved and the names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses.
  • Note the incident location.

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Questions about the content of this page:
Traffic Operations Center, statewide.toc@dot.wi.gov
Last modified: August 1, 2012

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