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January 8, 2024

Heads Up! Seminole’s New Alert System Warns Drivers of Accident Ahead

Story originally posted by Martin E. Comas at the Orlando Sentinel

Orlando, FL — Lt. Dave Williams’ most frightening moments as a paramedic come when he and other emergency responders treat an accident victim on the side of the road.

Cars and trucks zip by, just a few feet away, as many drivers wait until the last moment to move to another lane.

“You can have distracted drivers, drunk drivers,” Williams of the Seminole County Fire Department said.

But Williams is now “pretty excited” that Seminole County Fire Department recently installed a new technology on all its fire trucks and emergency vehicles to address the danger. It alerts drivers via their car’s dashboard systems when there is an accident roughly half-a-mile ahead, giving them a heads-up to steer clear.

Known as the Haas Alert’s Safety Cloud, the system also warns drivers that an emergency vehicle speeding to a call is fast approaching about half-a-mile behind them.

That would give motorists time to pull over, allowing the emergency vehicles room to arrive at a scene quicker.

It often frustrates drivers of emergency vehicles, Williams said, when motorists see a fire truck or ambulance with its red lights flashing in their rearview mirrors at the last minute, and then hit their brakes.

The emergency vehicles “can come up so fast that it can catch someone off guard,” said Doreen Overstreet, a spokesperson for the Seminole County Fire Department.

Using the technology, the emergency vehicles will automatically send out the alerts within a half-mile radius, which will then flash on the dashboard screen of a car or truck using Google Maps or Apple Maps navigation apps. The alerts also can be integrated into the dashboards of Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge vehicles built in 2008 or later.

The Haas Alert system costs Seminole about $30,000 a year to use.

Local fire departments in Seminole that partner with the county for emergency fire service also use the system. Those include Sanford, Lake Mary, Oviedo, Longwood and the Orlando Sanford International Airport.

In all, 112 emergency vehicles in Seminole have been integrated with the new technology, Overstreet said.

Even though Florida’s “Move Over” law requires drivers to switch lanes when approaching emergency vehicles at an accident scene, many drivers react slowly, may not see the scene until the last moment or fail to move over at all, officials said.

According to a 2021 study conducted by Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Transportation, systems like Haas Alert can reduce by 80% how often drivers have to “hard brake” or hit their vehicle’s brakes at the last moment.

Scores of local governments across the country also have recently implemented the Haas Alert technology, including the city of Largo in Florida, Champaign, Ill., and Penn Hills, Pa.

Seminole Fire Chief Matt Kinley said the advance alerts help protect emergency responders and the public.

“Responding to accidents on busy highways can be particularly challenging for first responders,” he said in a written statement. “The combination of limited visibility, high speeds, and unpredictable actions of other motorists increases the risk involved in these situations.”

About HAAS Alert

HAAS Alert makes roads and communities safer by delivering digital alerts from emergency response and other municipal fleets to nearby drivers. The company streams real-time alerts and other vital safety information to motorists and connected cars via in-vehicle and navigation systems when emergency vehicles are approaching and on-scene. For emergency response and roadway fleets interested in joining the Safety Cloud, click below to get equipped.



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