Firefighters work against obstacles at crash scenes as drivers delay traffic

Sierra Sizemore



Slow moving traffic on I-35 South of the eastbound Highway 9 exit in Norman preceding a car accident on Tuesday evening. Traffic was delayed for approximately two miles.

Norman firefighters believe social media and curiosity of bystanders play roles in their everyday lives on the job.

Drivers or bystanders who take advantage of a scene in order to snap a picture or video, otherwise known as “digital rubberneckers,” are an obstacle for first responders during calls. Firefighters are discouraging crash-scene photos and any kind of documentation not previously authorized by the fire department.

Unsolicited photos or documentation at crash scenes or during fires are a potential risk to those involved in the crash.


Photo taken by driver passing by a crash scene on September 20 on 24th Avenue in Norman. Source: Nora Carranco, Facebook

“There are instances where people have shown car wrecks [on social media],” said Stephen Clymer, City of Norman Fire Department Station 8 captain. You get a tag number in there, and that’s a violation of patient confidentiality rights.”


Clymer also explains that firefighters and first responders are taught to expect to be on camera at all times, adding more pressure to an already strenuous situation.

Tim Miller describes the difficulties of effectively performing their assigned tasks or protocols during calls due to obstructions, such as, digital rubberneckers. For firefighters, even when off-duty, it’s increasingly frustrating to see people backing up traffic to gawk at a crash scene or active fire. It is more difficult for first responders to efficiently do their jobs

“It’s really frustrating when I’m off-duty and there’s a wreck, and you see those people slowing down, taking pictures and videos, because I can see it from a different vantage point,” Miller said.