Keep your pets safe and out of the roadway

Keep your pets safe and out of the roadway


Keep your pets safe and out of the roadway

Keep your pets safe and out of the roadway

March 23, 2012
Photo courtesy of Arizona Humane Society
Peyton, an adorable cocker spaniel pup, is one of thousands of pets who strayed onto an Arizona highway this year but among the few who survived.
By Kimberly Noetzel
Senior Community Relations Officer

It goes without saying that pets and highways are a dangerous combination.

Still, thousands of dogs and cats end up on Arizona’s highways every year often suffering serious or fatal injuries and contributing to motor vehicle crashes.

That’s why we’re reminding pet owners always to keep dogs, cats and other animals safely contained at home or properly secured inside your vehicle while traveling.

It’s an important message year-round. With the onset of the spring breeding season, however, dogs and cats who are not “fixed” (spayed or neutered) are more prone to stray from home this time of year.

At ADOT, we receive more than 50 calls a month to remove deceased dogs and cats from Valley freeways in the greater Phoenix area. Statewide, the number exceeds 250 calls a month – that’s about 3,000 pets a year! That number doesn’t include pets struck on local streets and roads, pets no one calls about for removal, livestock or wildlife.

Payton the puppy is lucky not to be among the grim statistics. The tiny cocker spaniel was rescued from Interstate 17 in Phoenix during a recent morning rush-hour commute. 

Despite suffering a severe leg injury, numerous cuts and bruises and several broken teeth, she made a full recovery at the Arizona Humane Society and was adopted.

Photo courtesy of Arizona Humane Society
Payton recovers at the Arizona Humane Society after being rescued from I-17. She eventually lost her injured leg, but found a loving new home.

“She was very fortunate,” said AHS spokeswoman Bretta Nelson. “Unfortunately, many are not so lucky.”

Drivers can also be unlucky when pets end up on the highway.

Crashes occur when motorists hit the brakes or swerve to avoid hitting an animal. Other drivers endanger themselves and others when they stop and attempt a daring pet rescue.

"Dogs and other animals who gain access to the freeway system pose a safety issue for both our officers and motorists. The Arizona Department of Public Safety strongly urges drivers to call 911 when they see an animal in the roadway,” said Bart Graves, DPS spokesman. “Motorists should NEVER get out of their vehicles and attempt to chase and capture the animal. By doing so, drivers not only put themselves at risk but will most likely cause serious injury or even a fatal collision.”

Pet owners, keep these additional safety and health tips in mind:

  • Bring pets indoors when they’re likely to be frightened and escape the yard, such as during thunderstorms or fireworks events. ADOT maintenance crews in Maricopa County see calls about deceased dogs on the freeways sharply increase after the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. 
  • If you cannot bring your pets indoors, be sure your yard is secure, your fence or wall is tall enough, and pets have access to all-day shelter and water. 
  • Secure pets inside your vehicle while driving. Dogs and cats can jump or fall onto the roadway through open windows or truck beds. Pets who roam freely inside the vehicle can distract your driving and be injured or killed if you stop quickly or are involved in even a minor collision.
  • Tired of your dog or cat going into “heat” and straying from home? Call your veterinarian or the Spay/Neuter Hotline for info about low-cost services statewide. 

Attenuators designed to take the impact of vehicle collisions

Attenuators designed to take the impact of vehicle collisions


Attenuators designed to take the impact of vehicle collisions

Attenuators designed to take the impact of vehicle collisions

December 20, 2011

An example of a fixed attenuator
that has been hit.

Back in July we told you all about truck-mounted attenuators and how vital they are to the safety of ADOT employees and drivers out on the road. 

But, there’s another type of attenuator that acts on the same principle and does just as much to protect motorists...

Instead of being attached to a truck, fixed attenuators are placed at the end of barrier walls on the freeway. You’ll see them near off-ramps or medians and anywhere a barrier wall comes to an end.

Like truck-mounted attenuators, fixed attenuators will take the impact of a vehicle collision and absorb a lot of the energy from a crash.

This is by no means a physics blog, but a basic grasp of how energy works is needed to understand attenuators …

A vehicle’s speed and size determine how much energy it has. Normally, this energy is dissipated by your brakes, which burn off that energy slowly, allowing you to come to a safe stop.

But, if a vehicle stops by crashing into a wall, the energy is dispersed very suddenly, resulting in a car that’s crushed. Attenuators won't exactly give a soft landing, but they do work to dissipate the energy slowly like your brakes do. Various attenuators do this by different methods.

There are a few different types of fixed attenuators; however most of them will look pretty similar to drivers.

Some of the brands are built on a rail and have several compartments that hold Styrofoam blocks to absorb the impact. When a vehicle crashes into it, this type of attenuator, also known as G.R.E.A.T.s and QuadGuards, will collapse a compartment at a time and the blocks will disperse the energy. ADIEM's are made of a gypsum type composite that sit on top of an inclined base.

Another attenuator brand, known as the SCI Smart Cushion, is very similar, but instead of Styrofoam, these types of attenuators use a cable and hydraulic ram to absorb the energy.

Location and the area’s speed limit help determine which brand attenuator gets placed in certain spots.

Once an attenuator is hit by a vehicle, it needs to be fixed. ALERT Commander Tom Donithan says repairs vary depending on the type of attenuator and the severity of the crash.

Repairs to the types of attenuators designed to use Styrofoam blocks call for replacement of the blocks and other components.

Generally, the SCI Smart Cushion requires pulling the system back out and the replacement of a few bolts after it has been hit. The front shield also usually is replaced (see photo above).

Typically ADOT crews repair about five attenuators a month in the Valley region. If they’re badly damaged enough, they’ll need to be replaced and Donithan says that happens about three or four times a year in the Valley.

“They all perform the same duty, which is to protect the public from the blunt end of a barrier wall” said Donithan, adding that attenuators perform their job well and that there are very few times that his team comes across an attenuator crash where the driver doesn’t walk away.  “That’s why they’re out there, because they do their job”

Arizona roadway fatalities dropped again in 2010

Arizona roadway fatalities dropped again in 2010


Arizona roadway fatalities dropped again in 2010

Arizona roadway fatalities dropped again in 2010

September 16, 2011

Even though just one driving-related fatality is too many, Arizona motorists can at least be heartened by a new report showing the number of fatal crashes was on the decline in 2010.

You can take a look at the Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts Report for 2010. It shows that 762 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes on highways and local roads in the state last year. That’s down from 806 fatalities in 2009 and marks a significant reduction since 1,301 people died in crashes in 2006 (the year Arizona recorded its highest-ever number of traffic fatalities).

The statistics also show that 30 percent of the fatal crashes that occurred last year were alcohol-related (210). That number is down from 35 percent the year prior.

Here are some other findings in ADOT’s 2010 Crash Facts report:

  • There were a total of 106,177 crashes recorded in Arizona in 2010
  • There was a 20 percent drop in crash fatalities in rural areas from 2009 to 2010 (481 dropped to 382 fatalities)
  • There was a 17 percent increase in crash fatalities in urban areas from 2009 to 2010 (325 increased to 380 fatalities).
  • While crashes in rural areas (21,375) accounted for 20 percent of all crashes, they accounted for 49 percent of fatal crashes (344) in 2010
  • 78 percent of all alcohol-related crashes occurred in urban areas. However, 41 percent of fatal alcohol-related crashes occurred in rural areas
  • The highest percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes (19 percent) was in the 25-34 age group
  • Motor vehicle crashes resulted in $2.668 billion in economic losses to Arizona in 2010
  • 73.6 percent of all crashes occurred during daylight hours (6 a.m. – 6 p.m.)
  • October was the peak month for all crashes (9,603 crashes)

ADOT Director John Halikowski says improving highway safety remains a priority for the agency.

“In an age of limited funding, ADOT is committed to improvements and programs that make our highways safer, ranging from signs that are easier to read day and night, new lanes in strategic locations and working hard to keep the snowplows moving when winter storms hit our high country,” Halikowski said.

Preparedness and emergency response are important parts of ADOT's job

Preparedness and emergency response are important parts of ADOT's job


Preparedness and emergency response are important parts of ADOT's job

Preparedness and emergency response are important parts of ADOT's job

September 7, 2011

Last week when we told you about National Preparedness Month, we briefly detailed the role ADOT plays when it comes to public safety. But, there’s a whole lot more to say on the subject, and who better to write about it than ADOT’s very own Emergency Manager…

Courtney Perrier-Bear has been with ADOT for 12 years and has been the department’s emergency manager since June 2010. That same year she received her master's degree in technology, with an emphasis in emergency management from Arizona State University. Courtney’s experience also includes time as an Arizona Firefighter II, work as an Arizona Division of Emergency Management adjunct instructor and 20 years in environmental, safety, hazardous materials and emergency management. Take a look at the video above to see Courtney in action on the scene of the Wallow Fire back in June.

By Courtney Perrier-Bear
ADOT Emergency Manager

Everything ADOT does supports public safety in some manner…

But, in order for us to be ready for any emergencies or disasters that might affect our highways and interstates, we’ve got to be prepared for anything.

To help the department stay ready and prepared, ADOT has an Emergency Preparedness and Management group that focuses on caring for the public as well as ADOT employees during such emergencies.

ADOT has several responsibilities for response and recovery that are spelled out in the Arizona State Emergency Response and Recovery Plan. We have to be prepared as an agency and as employees to be ready to meet those responsibilities.

Some examples of our activities include:

  • Coordinating and participating in internal and external preparedness activities with all levels of government, private entities, and non-governmental agencies such as the Red Cross
  • Representing ADOT at the State Emergency Operations Center in the Public Safety Branch
  • Integrating items such as training and communication requirements found in the National Response Framework and National Incident Management System into ADOT operations
  • Supporting ADOT employees and ADOT business area recovery during and after emergencies
  • Responding as an assisting agency to emergencies affecting ADOT with other state agencies, counties, local jurisdictions and private entities during response operation.

These activities help ADOT prepare to assist the citizens of Arizona during an emergency affecting our transportation corridors … but there are plenty of things you can do to be prepared and help ADOT and other response agencies.

  • Know the hazards of your area. Sign up for the Arizona Emergency Information Network at Check your local jurisdiction or county web pages for emergency management groups and see what they have to offer. Arizona demographics, climate, and hazard risk vary widely and local plans tailored to the area will aid in your preparedness.
  • Create a family emergency plan such as the one found at and focus on how you will get out of your area and community if evacuated. You may only have minutes to react as seen in the Texas wildfires over the last few days. Check a map of your area and pick several different routes of escape. You may find that during an emergency such as the Wallow Fire this summer, ADOT may have closed some routes due to dangerous conditions. Learn how to use before an emergency strikes.
  • Decide on your method of evacuation (car, bus, friend’s car, etc) and then plan a second and a third method if the first fails.
  • Plan options for where to go. Sure, there will probably be shelters, but what about your pets or family members with functional needs? What will you do if you can’t get to your destination right away?
  • Have a communication (such as an out of state relative or friend) and rendezvous point backup plan. What if you are separated from family members and can’t reunite until you are out of danger? How will you make contact and where will you meet up? Will it be safe there based on the hazards in your area?
    Have emergency supplies ready in your car at all times. And don’t forget; keep your car serviced and your fuel topped off.

During emergencies that require evacuation, ADOT will work with other agencies to make sure appropriate evacuation decisions are taking place and that the public is being informed of response-specific actions you will need to take. Help us out by being prepared for such events!

ADOT puts some of Arizona’s abundant sunshine to good use!

ADOT puts some of Arizona’s abundant sunshine to good use!


ADOT puts some of Arizona’s abundant sunshine to good use!

ADOT puts some of Arizona’s abundant sunshine to good use!

August 24, 2011

A top view of the solar panels.

When prices at the pump started to spike a couple years ago, ADOT began looking at ways to cut fuel costs for the 4,200 vehicles in its fleet. And, believe it or not, the idea for a very promising solution came from the roof of a pretend cop car … well, sort of.

Around two years ago ADOT Assistant Director John Nichols was contacted by a company with a new product to demonstrate. It was a stand-in law enforcement vehicle touted as an item that could help ADOT save money. The premise was that it would alleviate the need for a real law enforcement officer at construction sites.

It wasn’t going to work for ADOT, but Nichols had a look and was intrigued by the lights on top of this fiberglass shell of a vehicle. They stayed on even though the car had no engine.

They were powered, he was told, by solar energy and a large pack of lead acid batteries. The solar panels were on the outside of the vehicle and the rest of the mechanism was hidden in the “car.”

It was about this same time that Nichols was involved with ADOT’s efforts to cut fuel costs. In an attempt to find out where fuel-use could efficiently be limited, 117 ADOT vehicles were equipped with a device that provided data on aspects of the vehicle’s operation. It could tell things like average speed, location and even the amount of time ADOT vehicle engines spent idling.

Surprisingly, the data showed that the average vehicle idled about 60 percent of the time it was in use … but with good explanation.

“The reason they idle is because they’re running emergency lighting,” said Nichols, adding when crews are working on the side of the road the lights are crucial to their safety and to the protection of motorists.


Solar-powered emergency lighting is being tested on 50 ADOT vehicles.

The emergency lighting takes a lot of energy to operate and if crews didn’t leave their vehicles running, the lights could kill the battery pretty quickly.

After seeing the solar panels work so well to power lights on the fake vehicle, Nichols wondered if something similar could perform in the same way to power emergency lights on ADOT vehicles and thereby prevent the need for idling and save fuel.

That’s when Nichols asked the company that had come up with the faux police vehicle to work on a solar lighting prototype that might work for ADOT.

“We wanted to test the concept,” Nichols said. “Would solar lighting be able to reduce the amount of idling?”

The company produced a rudimentary prototype and two ADOT vehicles were chosen to test it out – one from maintenance and one from construction.

When the results were in, Nichols says the average idle time went from 60 percent of the time the vehicle was in use, down to 7 percent.

“It was pretty significant,” he said. “That really got our attention.”

But, the prototype wasn’t going to work across the entire fleet. Soon ADOT put out a request for proposals seeking a sleek set-up that would be easy to install and not bulky.

“We challenged the industry … they saw the practicality of this application,” Nichols said.

Eventually a product was settled on to test on a larger scale.

The lights now being tested on 50 ADOT vehicles come with supplemental lithium battery packs that are charged by the solar panels. They also have sensors that can adjust the brightness of the light depending on the time of day. Another bonus is that the new solar lights take only 45 minutes to install. The older non-solar lights take much longer to hook up.

The plan is to try them for an extended period of time, make sure any issues are worked out and then deploy them as standard.

“Our analysis showed they’ll pay for themselves in the first year of use,” Nichols said.

Better safe than sorry: Arizona school zones aim to provide safe crossings

Better safe than sorry: Arizona school zones aim to provide safe crossings


Better safe than sorry: Arizona school zones aim to provide safe crossings

Better safe than sorry: Arizona school zones aim to provide safe crossings

August 16, 2011

By Kohinoor Kar and Mike Cynecki, Guest Bloggers

The need for pedestrian and bicyclist safety at schools, especially involving young students, cannot be overemphasized. While federal, state and local agencies are encouraging fit and healthy lifestyles by promoting walking and biking to school, the safety of these children should be our highest priority.

Arizona has been a leader in providing a system for safe school crossings, and there is some important information motorists should know while driving around schools in our communities.

Arizona has a unique way to establish low-speed school zone crossings. The system was first established in 1950 through adoption of Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 28-797. This state law provides a uniform application of 15 mph school zone traffic control that can only be used for elementary and middle schools (kindergarten through eighth grades) in Arizona at authorized school crossings meeting certain minimum criteria.

Rules of the school zone …

  • The 15 mph school zones cannot be used at crosswalks that are controlled by STOP signs or traffic signals.
  • The state law provides for the use of portable signs and yellow crosswalk markings, and the 15 mph provision is only in effect when the portable signs are placed in the street.
  • The school zone signs are placed and removed by crossing guards or school employees under a special operating agreement between the school district and the traffic agency that controls the roadway, and can only be used for legitimate school crossing activities during a normal school day.
  • Each 15 mph school zone is preceded by a permanent fluorescent yellow-green pentagon-shaped advance school warning sign showing two walking school children.
  • The first portable sign placed in the street states, “NO PASSING, 15 MPH, FINES DOUBLED, SCHOOL IN SESSION,” which is located about 75 to 300 feet in advance of the yellow crosswalk depending on the non-school posted speed limit. This portable sign is placed at the location where the 15 mph speed limit begins. Furthermore, motorists cannot pass any other slower or stopped vehicles between the first portable 15 mph sign to the yellow crosswalk. At the yellow crosswalk, a different portable sign exists which states, “STOP WHEN CHILDREN IN CROSSWALK.”

A few guidelines …

Unlike white crosswalks where drivers are required to “yield and stop if necessary” to pedestrians crossing on their half of the street, ARS 28-797 requires all drivers to stop if anyone (including children, adults or crossing guards) are present anywhere within the yellow school crosswalk when the portable signs are in the street. After all pedestrians exit the yellow crosswalk, drivers may proceed.

Motorists should be very careful while driving near 15 mph school zone crosswalks, especially when the crossing guards are placing or removing the portable signs from the street. The crossing guards are most vulnerable during these times.

In addition, motorists need to be careful any time while driving in neighborhoods near schools or school crossings, especially during the start and end times of the school day. Motorists also need to be careful around school buses and cannot pass them in either direction if they are displaying their STOP paddle while stopped to pick up or drop off students.

Regardless of the time of the year, motorists should be vigilant while driving in neighborhoods, since young children may dart out from behind a parked car or ride their bike in the street without looking for approaching vehicles. Undoubtedly, it is better to be late for an appointment than to race through a neighborhood and experience a tragic crash with a child.


Kohinoor Kar, Ph.D., P.E., PTOE, a professional engineer with 22 years combined experience in the roadway, traffic and safety field, has been with the State of Arizona for past seven years.

Michael J. Cynecki, P.E. recently retired from the City of Phoenix after a career of 26 years in the Transportation Department, and is currently with the consulting firm of Lee Engineering, LLC.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors or references cited herein and may not necessarily represent the views of the agencies they are affiliated with. Information contained in this article are for general awareness only and are not intended to substitute for professional advice to any particular person or case. Some of the information might change over time in which case the current practice would supersede all previous practices.


Moving oversize loads requires big effort

Moving oversize loads requires big effort


Moving oversize loads requires big effort

Moving oversize loads requires big effort

August 9, 2011

This anode is making its way through Arizona Aug. 9-16. The oversize load is roughly 225-feet long, 20-feet wide, 19-feet high and weighs 285 tons. Check out our Facebook page for more photos, courtesy of Precision Heavy Haul, Inc.

When it comes to describing some hauls, the term “oversize load” is a major understatement.

We’re talking about the enormous “super-loads” driven through the state each day. Maybe you’ve seen them on the freeways … they’re the trucks lugging gigantic transformers, generators, turbines, and even houseboats.

Moving these mammoth objects requires acts almost as big the loads themselves. Coordinating these moves takes massive amounts of work and cooperation, and because they travel on state roads, highways and freeways, ADOT is involved from the very start of the trek.

Before they can hit the road, the hauler for each oversize/overweight load has to apply for a permit to drive on Arizona highways. These “super-loads” often fall into the Class C category, defined by loads that are either in excess of 250,000 pounds, measure more than 120 feet in length, 16 feet in height or 14 feet in width.

The permit applications ask the hauler to specify travel routes along with the more technical stuff – like how many trailer axles will be used to spread the weight.

All this is thoroughly reviewed by ADOT’s Merlinda Chavez and Chris Pippin. All Class C permit applications in Arizona go through them. (They’ve got quite a workload – in June alone, they issued 538 Class C permits!) They analyze all the specs and make sure a load can safely make it along its route. They also communicate with various ADOT district engineers to make sure current road conditions and construction projects are accounted for in the final route.

“There is a lot that goes into oversize loads,” Pippin said. “But, the No. 1 thing this department is all about is safety.”

If the proposed route involves moving structures like traffic signals or power lines, those details must be worked out before a permit is issued. If the route involves a bridge, ADOT’s bridge engineers make sure the bridge can handle the load and that the infrastructure won’t be damaged.

Once a permit is issued it comes with a Class C Approval, which is basically an instruction sheet that includes guidelines the hauler must adhere to. These instructions list things like hours the load can travel (the majority of Class C loads must travel during daylight hours) and whether or not law enforcement escorts will be necessary.

The approval also lists the other municipalities that the load will be traveling through. It is the hauler’s responsibility to coordinate with these cities, towns and counties. ADOT only issues permits for the state’s highway system.

Many Arizonans are getting the chance to see the end result of this permitting process. Right now a giant 285-ton anode (it’s used in the electrical process for refining copper) is making its way from Nevada all the way to Miami, Ariz. It’s a notable move because this is the largest oversized load to cross the new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge .

Pippin and Chavez both agree that coordination between their office, the hauler, district engineers, traffic engineers, maintenance engineers, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and ADOT’s Enforcement and Compliance Department is what makes these oversize moves possible.

“You can move just about anything on the state highways, as long as you’ve got a permit,” Pippin said.

Research Center guides ADOT toward transportation innovation

Research Center guides ADOT toward transportation innovation


Research Center guides ADOT toward transportation innovation

Research Center guides ADOT toward transportation innovation

August 8, 2011

The ADOT Research Center studies ways to improve transportation in Arizona.

Much has changed since ADOT got its start in 1927.

Back then, the agency was known as the Arizona State Highway Department and roads certainly were built a little differently. Methods, materials and technology have changed so much since then.

Amazingly, they’re still evolving today …

ADOT keeps up with transportation advancements through research. The ADOT Research Center oversees that research, which is aimed at improving all aspects of transportation in the state and beyond.

But, don’t think the studies and research produced by this team just sit on a shelf once completed.

The information generated by ADOT’s Research Center focuses on evaluating new materials and methods. ADOT’s researchers look at developing design and analysis techniques and study the underlying causes of transportation problems.

In other words, this research leads to better methods, innovative practices and new ways of doing things, giving Arizonans a better value when it comes to transportation!

To get an idea of how this research ends up influencing the way ADOT operates, take a look at the seven emphasis areas within the ADOT Research Center :

  • The Environment emphasis explores the interaction between transportation and the environment. Studies from this discipline look at air quality policy, emissions reduction, transportation-generated noise, wildlife and other environmental topics.
  • The Maintenance emphasis researches how to enhance the maintenance and operation of roadways. A recent study is evaluating the effects of snowplow and deicing chemicals on rubberized asphalt pavements.
  • Materials and Construction studies scrutinize the products and methods used in constructing roads. One study from this emphasis provided research into the noise reduction properties of rubberized asphalt.
  • Research within the Structures emphasis area aims to apply effective modern technology and resources to enhance the implementation of bridge management systems, including the repair of over-stressed bridge decks.
  • Traffic and Safety research not only investigates engineering principles to help solve traffic problems, but it often takes into account the psychology and habits of drivers. Research projects have included a study on seat belt usage in Arizona.
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems analyzes ways to integrate advanced communication technologies into transportation infrastructure. Study topics have included freeway ramp metering, electronic message signs and emerging technology.
  • The Planning and Administration discipline looks to our transportation future – how ADOT can best meet travelers’ needs as the population grows, our society evolves and technology offers more options. This emphasis also addresses organizational issues within ADOT. One ongoing study within this emphasis will report on how new media can bolster ADOT’s community outreach.

There’s much more to learn about this team. Visit the Research Center’s webpage for additional information and stay tuned. In the future we’ll blog about the ADOT Research Center ’s library and product evaluation program.

ADOT serves as safety oversight for rail transit

ADOT serves as safety oversight for rail transit


ADOT serves as safety oversight for rail transit

ADOT serves as safety oversight for rail transit

August 2, 2011

Firefighters and other emergency crews participated in a mock emergency near Tempe Town Lake. The drill was conducted by METRO.

There’s so much to be said for rail transit – the future of this efficient mode of transportation is pretty exciting.

In Arizona steps are being taken toward that future with the operation of METRO Light Rail and the anticipated launch of Tucson ’s modern streetcar project.

While ADOT is not responsible for rail transit in the state, the agency does play an important role …

Back in the early 1990s, work began on a federal level to establish a method of ensuring the safety and security of rail transit. That led to the Federal Transit Administration’s creation of the State Safety Oversight Rule in 1995. It sets forth requirements to improve rail transit safety and security and gives the states the authority to take on oversight.

That’s where ADOT comes in.

ADOT’s Herman Bernal is the state safety oversight manager for transit (that doesn’t include buses, by the way). He works with METRO Light Rail to make sure the ride is safe and secure for all passengers.

His duties are spelled out by the federal rule, and include:

  • Developing a system safety program standard
  • Reviewing, approving and monitoring the implementation of that plan
  • Requiring each rail transit system to report the occurrence of accidents and unacceptable hazardous conditions
  • Conducting onsite visits
  • Requiring the rail transit system to conduct safety audits

His job also includes lots of training, workshops and conferences, which help make him aware of the potential safety and security threats faced by rail transit. The FTA conducts training for him and his counterparts twice a year.


Participants acted injured and confused so emergency crews could practice what it would be like to evacuate a METRO Light Rail car.

There have been two recent training scenarios that METRO has conducted and Bernal was on hand for. One scenario was conducted near on the Tempe Town Lake bridge and let local emergency responders practice how they would react if a METRO Light Rail passenger car was on fire and needed to be evacuated (see photos in this post).

Volunteers acted as passengers who were injured and confused. Bernal said there were many different scenarios thrown at the responders – including crowd control and the possibility of live electricity in the cars.

An earlier training exercise focused on what to do in case of a derailment.

“We had three shifts of firefighters going through the mock derailment,” said Bernal, adding 911 dispatchers, ambulance companies and police from Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale and Phoenix were involved, too.

Jay Harper, METRO’s chief of safety and security, says the scenarios are beneficial and two are required each year.

“It’s a very collaborative relationship I think,” Harper said of ADOT’s safety oversight role. “We both understand what we need to do and we understand how important it is that we do it correctly.”

Bernal agrees and says METRO has done a phenomenal job and that the growing system is important to Arizona ’s future.

“In 10 to 20 years our population could double,” he said. “If we don’t look at light rail and street cars, we’re going to miss the boat."

"Move Over" law now covers all vehicles on the side of the road

"Move Over" law now covers all vehicles on the side of the road


"Move Over" law now covers all vehicles on the side of the road

"Move Over" law now covers all vehicles on the side of the road

July 19, 2011

The "Move Over" law now pertains to all stationary vehicles on the side of the road.

Ever been stuck on the side of the road?

Perhaps a flat tire was to blame, or maybe an overheated engine forced you to pull over. Whatever the reason, most will agree the side of a busy freeway is not the ideal parking spot.

Since 2005, a law has been in place that aims to protect authorized emergency vehicles on the side of the road by making it a requirement that other drivers move over into a farther lane if possible to give a little space for safety.

But, starting July 20, the law will be amended to include the same precautions for any stationary vehicle – that includes tow-truck drivers, emergency personnel, stranded motorists, ADOT employees and anyone else in a vehicle on the side of the road.

Commonly known as the “Move Over” law, the amended ARS 28-775 states that if a person driving a vehicle approaches a stationary vehicle giving a signal or displaying warning (hazard) lights, the person shall do one of the following:

  • If there are enough lanes on the highway and if the person is able to do so safely, the driver must proceed with caution and if possible, with regard to safety and traffic conditions, move over and yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the stationary vehicle.
  • If changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe, the driver must proceed with due caution and reduce speed, maintaining a safe speed for road conditions.
  • The law is a popular one because 49 states have a “move over” law pertaining to emergency vehicles. According to AAA Arizona, of those states, 40 (including Arizona) have a more comprehensive rule that includes all vehicles.

“Public policy already recognizes that this is a safety issue for law enforcement,” said Kevin Biesty, ADOT Government Relations Director. “It’s common sense that the same policy should apply to anyone on the side of the road, whether it be one of our ADOT crews, a tow-truck driver, or a parent changing a tire with their kids in the van.”