New police equipment should decrease wreck delays on KC highways

Speed seldom translates to safety on the highway.

But when traffic snarls behind a wreck, the faster that investigators can finish their work and get traffic flowing again, the safer that they and other motorists will be.

As part of ongoing efforts to decrease crash-related congestion and related hazards, Kansas City police on Thursday unveiled new technology that will allow accident investigators to work more quickly.

The evidence-gathering and mapping system was purchased for Kansas City by the Missouri Department of Transportation and KC Scout. It will replace the department’s older equipment, which will be refurbished and given to a smaller area police agency.

Area officials have made great strides in recent years decreasing the time motorists sit stuck behind wrecks, and the new technology will let Kansas City continue that trend, said Rusty James, incident management coordinator for KC Scout.

Evidence at some collisions can be spread over an area the size of several football fields, said Sgt. Bill Mahoney, who heads one of the Police Department’s accident investigation squads. The new equipment allows officers to map the area quickly, store the information, and return at a later date to conduct any follow-up work.

The department has been using similar technology for several years, and it has made a difference, but the new version will allow investigators to finish even quicker.

“Right now, we’re clearing wrecks faster than we ever have before and more accurately,” Mahoney said. “It allows us to get things moving, and it’s not just a matter of convenience.”

It also minimizes the time officers and other emergency responders are exposed to highway traffic, and it can help prevent the secondary crashes that occur when unaware motorists can’t stop in time.

“Those are almost always worse than the original crash,” James said.

In recent years, the average time for road closures in the metropolitan area has been shaved by 114 minutes, James said. And closure times this year are down 40 percent from the same period last year.