To the editor:
On Saturday evening, December 19, at around 7:15 p.m., I was traveling westbound on Route 208 (New Bridge Road) near the Food Lion shopping center. From about a quarter-mile from the intersection of 208 and Oak Grove Drive, it was obvious that a serious accident had occurred ahead, partially blocking the westbound lane of 208.
As I approached the scene my vision was significantly impaired by the headlights of a fire truck standing in the westbound lane but facing east. These lights were so bright that I could not see the first responders (firemen) standing in the roadway directing traffic.
I approached very slowly and as I was nearly on top of the first official, I could see he was frantically waving for me to cross over to the oncoming traffic lane. I did not make this maneuver sooner because I could not see if there was oncoming traffic from the west due to the bright lights on the fire engine, nor could I see the first responder in the roadway.
It is not a stretch to imagine that this first responder could have been struck by me or someone else. His yellow gear with reflective strips was sufficiently worn that the reflective properties were substantially diminished.
He was on my left side when I passed him. I rolled down my driver side window and, in a loud voice, I shouted, “The lights on the fire truck are blinding oncoming drivers.”
It appeared that he heard me but he continued to flag me over to the left. A short distance further there was a second fireman in the road directing traffic back into their proper lane and controlling eastbound traffic. He was on the right side of my vehicle. I slowed to a crawl, rolled down my right-side passenger window and conveyed my concern to him in the same manner as before. He responded, “No one else has complained.” To which I responded saying, “No one else bothered to tell you.”
Besides fire equipment, there were several other emergency vehicles on scene including at least three police cars. It seems to me that one of the police cars could have been parked in front of the fire engine perpendicular to the roadway. This would have shielded oncoming traffic from the bright lights of the fire engine and presented a light-colored (white) emergency vehicle with flashing lights to the drivers approaching the scene, illuminated by the drivers’ own headlights. This positioning would also help to illuminate the roadway where other first responders were stationed and lighting the path for approaching drivers.
I also question why firemen were directing traffic when it appeared multiple police officers were on scene. I assume police are better trained and more experienced at traffic control.
I urge Louisa County emergency response officials to review their protocols for accident scenes of this nature and take steps to improve safety for all first responders.