By Ana Maria Eigen, D.Sc., Office of Safety Research and Development, and James G. Austrich, Office of Operations

Struck-by crashes involve law enforcement, fire/rescue, emergency medical services, transportation/public works, and tower personnel who sustain serious and fatal injuries while conducting their duties. Often, these crashes are not captured in traditional data systems, but they can result in serious or fatal injuries and compromise the safety of the entire roadway system.

The FHWA Office of Safety Research and Development and FHWA Office of Operations are undertaking a task to assess current data sources, compile extant data, review gaps, and propose a data collection strategy that will start to quantify this little-understood issue. FHWA seeks to:

  • Identify current reporting systems suited to advanced modelling using disparate data sets.
  • Develop a robust, analysis-ready data set that will help identify disparate data involving injuries and fatalities sustained by first responders and other road workers.
  • Analyze that resulting data set.
  • Assess the possibility of identifying the cause of the serious and fatal injuries.
  • Support future enhancement of crash typologies to include injuries and fatalities sustained by first responders and other road workers engaged in transportation incident management.

Not Captured in Traditional Systems…Yet

With the support of the Office of Safety, we seek to rely upon forthcoming changes to the Minimum Model Uniform Crash Criteria (MMUCC) and Model Inventory of Roadway Elements (MIRE).

MMUCC recommends a specific minimum set of data elements and attributes to describe a crash. The MIRE guide identifies traffic elements critical to safety management. As part of the guidance, States will start to populate a struck-by variable. It will take at least 3–5 years before a significant sample of struck-by crashes might be examined. For this reason, we are taking a grassroots approach within representative States.

Minimize and Mitigate Serious or Fatal Injury

Decades ago, biomechanics researchers aimed to identify injury patterns and mitigate the effects of serious and fatal crashes. Earlier biomechanics research that had relied on extensive data sets gave rise to protective countermeasures, which made previously non-survivable crashes survivable. With new vehicle technology, driver education, and enforcement countermeasures, some crash injuries evolved from non-survivable to serious injuries that might be addressed by countermeasures. Similarly, some serious injury crashes evolved to minor injuries or no injuries.

With adequate public education and outreach, responder training, and operations countermeasures, the same goal is now present for law enforcement and other first responders. The recently initiated data assessment task seeks to identify and compile disparate data sets that will lead to countermeasures—to protect those who protect us. As with the biomechanics countermeasures, the goal is to transform struck-by crashes from an abstract, career-ending problem to a quantifiable problem that can be analyzed and addressed.

How Can Operations Countermeasures Make a Roadway System Safer?

By identifying data sources and providing these data to safety and operations experts for analysis, a suite of countermeasures is envisioned to minimize first responder exposure, allowing them to secure roadway operations and carry out their missions.

If you have questions about this research, contact Ana Maria Eigen at