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First responders stress caution, patience after winter-related crashes happen

County highways are often narrower than major interstates, which could make it easier for both crash victims and first responders to get hurt from incoming traffic after a crash already happens.

With eight deaths, several injuries, and countless calls from winter-related crashes across the state of Iowa on Monday, those who answer the call to help want drivers to be more cautious and slow down on the roads when conditions are bad.

However, first responders said even if a person does not get hurt from a crash, it does not necessarily mean the scene safe all the time.

"If it happens and you're next to the roadway ditch, still stay in your vehicle. You're going to be a traffic hazard one way or another," said Michael Ellis, an Aurora Volunteer Firefighter EMT.

If crash victims can stay in their car, Ellis said they should or moving out of the car could cause a domino-effect of accidents.

"People cannot see you out there or react fast enough," he said.

Michael Ellis was driving on Interstate 80 in Cedar County on Monday when he caught a video of a car flipping over.

"[I] just wanted to let public know what was happening, you know drive safe because the weather is really bad out there," he said.

It was during heavy traffic on the interstate near mile marker 277, caused by a three-car crash, which killed one driver.

"As i was passing it, [in] the eastbound lane...a car didn't notice an ambulance, [hit] the breaks, [slid] sideways, and caught the median guard rail wires and rolled," said Ellis.

Ernest Ridgeway is a Tow Truck Operator for Darrah's Towing & Recovery. He said even when the scene seems safe, crash victims still around need to keep a distance.

"Safety zone I'd say, about 10 fifteen feet away," he said. "This way, if you want to observe it you can observe it , but just stay out of the tow truck operator's way because they are trying to clear the road.

He added, "Your car is fixable, you're not, that's the most important thing."

Ridgeway worked pn about fifteen different crashes on Monday.

He said it can also be dangerous for first responders if other drivers are not patient as they work to clear the road.

"We had people that were trying to drive by us, when we still had police officers on scene, and tow trucks on scene still trying to clear the road, and they were insistent to come through," said Ridgeway.

"Just be weather aware and aware of your surroundings so you don't hit any first responders on scene," said Ellis.

Ellis said county highways are often narrower than major interstates, which could make it easier for both crash victims and first responders to get hurt from incoming traffic after a crash already happens. In those instances, it is also important to drive cautiously.

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