At about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department responded to a single vehicle rollover crash along Highway 101 near Gaviota. As they were tending to what seemed to be a minor injury incident, a secondary crash occurred and two firefighters on the side of the road were hit.
The crash is still under investigation but first responders say this is becoming a more common occurrence and distracted driving could play a part.
Capt. Scott Safechuck, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, says both firefighters sustained critical injuries but are stable.
"It's important that during rain or inclement weather, that people are slowing down. We are continuously trying to educate the public with this but we really need them to pay attention, especially with inclement weather and wet roads. They can break traction really easily and cause accidents like striking emergency personnel," Safechuck said.
There are nearly 200,000 automobile accidents that result in injury each year in California, according to the National Safety Council.
In the United States, fatal traffic collisions hit 46,000 for the year 2022. Add rain to the highway and the risk of a fatal crash goes up by 34 percent.
"Distracted driving no matter where you’re at, no matter what call you're going to as a firefighter on the side of the road and you're trying to get traffic to slow down, it's very prudent that the drivers behind their phones are not touching their phones or messing with their radios," explained Toni Davis, Public Information Officer for CAL FIRE SLO.
First responders say that cars these days are so well insulted it is difficult for drivers to hear them coming until they are right on their bumper. They're asking drivers to continuously scan the roadways for first responders and be present at all times.
The crash on Highway 101 Wednesday morning caused closures at the base of the Nojoqui Grade through Gaviota redirecting traffic to Highway 154. The 101 reopened at 12:35 p.m.