Vehicles put a strain on public safety systems as their numbers increase (2023)

According to Knox County Sheriff Patrick Polky, an interesting trend is emerging in traffic accidents. It's not the number of MVAs that attracts off-duty MPs to work in the county. Instead, there is an increase in accident investigations and law enforcement presence at accident sites, in many cases including a growing community that is also operating under the influence of alcohol.

Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peasley has a different take.

The small town of Rockport, population 3,373, has three freeways, Routes 1, 17, and 90. Firefighters have noticed an increase in accidents, and Peasley suspects driver inattention is more common than OUI or speeding.

Since taking over as chief in 2013, Peasley has watched the number of calls – building fires, runaway burns, accidents, drug overdoses and even fire alarm investigations – steadily increase. Ten years ago, the department averaged 148 calls a year. The average is currently 231, with a possibility of increasing to 300 per year in the near future.

Of these, an average of 50 to 70 calls are related to traffic accidents. On May 4th of this year alone, the Rockport Fire Dept. he had answered his 108th call. Firefighters were called to five grass/forest fires in the first three weeks of spring.

After a busy March-April 2023 that saw five accidents in one hour on some days in Knox County, budgets are tight and volunteer participation is declining, authorities are looking for relief.

Knox County Sheriff's Department deputies respond to accidents involving multiple vehicles, multiple occupants, major injuries, extensive damage and road closures. And an already tense situation can be exacerbated by higher levels of stress. People are hurt, upset and upset.

Within 24 hours in April, officers responded to three car accidents, one of which occurred just minutes after a head-on collision in Thomaston. They all required research. One was a busy road closure at an intersection, one was an ambulance and the other was a single vehicle accident on a side street that brought down a large utility pole.

Each year, the Knox County Sheriff's Office assesses possible incidents in which emergency responders are called to the scene off-duty to provide assistance. This requires overtime pay.

Sometimes it can take an hour to get names, driver's license information, and other details from the deputy responsible for the accident, or to send the ambulance to the hospital for follow-up care. This may result in additional units being requested to manage stage security.

This year's sheriff's office budget did not anticipate the increase in accidents with aggravating factors, Polky said.

"We're trying to predict as best we can, but there's no recovery in law enforcement," he said. "It's the cost of doing business."

While the total cost for a driver convicted of OUI can be as high as $7,000. Replacing a bar can cost a rider $5,000 or more. and an emergency response to the same accident can net the community anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 in bills.

In most municipalities, compensation for traffic accidents and other calls can be little to non-existent. According to Rockland Fire Chief Chris Whytock, Rockland is in the early stages of evaluating how to recoup some of the fire department's costs.

As Sheriff Polkey looks over next year's budget proposals with the Knox County Commissioners, Chief Peasley travels to the 2023 Rockport Town Meeting on June 13 in hopes that voters will approve the fire department budget and a new Fire Chief West Rockport station. The budget of the fire brigade includes two employed fire brigade/rescue services this year.

Currently, Rockport volunteer firefighters receive a fee each time they respond to a call. An average of 12 volunteers could show up over the summer, Peasley said. But the incident itself can also determine the volunteer's reaction.

"The nature of the call sometimes dictates the number of people who leave," he said. "If there's a car accident at 2 a.m., they know it's probably going to be more exciting, so they usually get out of bed for it. When there's a call for fire and construction flames, it usually increases everyone's excitement.”

The number of volunteers is greatly reduced when it comes to fire alarms, since the cause is usually burnt food on the stove or a defective alarm.

The crash site

Any conflict is exhausting, whether it's fender damage or multiple casualties. They are scary and expensive.

Central Maine Power issued its first press release (that we have seen) today, May 16th.warns drivers to be careful.Last weekend, seven utility poles were knocked down, cutting off power to 6,000 utility companies across the state.

Accidents were reported in Knox County between January 1 and April 30
Data provided by Knox County Communications Center

PD accident (police response only)Accidents (unknown injuries or injuries therefore requiring FD, EMS response as well as PD)

"No one wants to be involved in an accident, but when it does happen, it can affect many other people besides you."kleinHelp Lauren Stewart, director of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, in a press release. “First responders and utility workers must respond to restore power and clean up the scene. When you’re behind the wheel, you only have one job: just drive.”

According to CMP lineworker chief Mike MacDonald, linemen are also first responders. Utility personnel respond to accidents as soon as they are called by the county's emergency operators, who take recent 911 calls.

"As soon as you leave the house, all you have to think about is this call -- what to do," said William Smith, Central Maine Power's regional line manager. "All the way there you're thinking, 'What's going to happen when I get there?'

Like fire, ambulance, and police, the CMP dispatcher follows standard mental checklists during a power pole collision. And in Knox and Waldo counties, CMP owns the majority of those towers.

"When we get a call [from the CMP communications center], we stop what we're doing or get up, get in the truck and go to the scene," MacDonald said.

In 2022, CMP responded to 544 motor vehicle accidents in the greater Maine area where it operates. 34 of these accidents occurred during severe storms.

"We value what we have," MacDonald said. "We need to make sure the crime scene is safe for everyone in that area before anyone can actually participate in the recovery or help anyone. We go through our thoughts - where does that come from? Where does the electricity come from, where can we turn it on and unplug it? Where can we do it safely?'

After surveying the area, the lineman returns to the scene and determines which mast it is, what equipment is on the mast, calls a team for help, and tells the communications center what equipment is needed.

CMP has numerous substations on its territory from which it can supply electricity. However, if they need a new pole, they must return to the Rockland Regional Office. CMP have flag bearers that they often keep up with, but if it's a bad scene they ask the fire department and/or police to stay and block the road.

"Because in an emergency, it's difficult to pay attention to traffic and your own work," MacDonald said.

The following statistics are fromMaine CRASH,a mirror of all reported accidents electronically submitted by each police department in the state to the Maine State Police MCRS (Maine Collision Reporting System).

While all three of these systems are updated every hour, according to Shawn MacDonald, senior technician for MDOT's accident records department, it takes an average of about five days from the accident event to submission by the registry to MCRS. The recording team then reviews the reports for location accuracy.

The data is based on the MDOT mapped road network. Accidents that occur on unmapped private roads, rural unmapped dirt roads and parking lots are not included in the data available in the Personalized Crash Reporting Tool.

Knox County

(number of accidents)

(number of accidents)













peak day of the week

Thursday and Friday (based on full year average)

Tuesday (35) and Saturday (36)

rush hour of the day

16:00. (based on the average for the entire year)

6 p.m. (7 p.m.)


Jan (7) Feb (3) March (7) April (5)

Jan (3) Feb (2) March (2) April (1)

Distracted Driver

Jan (7) Feb (2) March (10) April (8)

Jan (8) Feb (8) March (4) April (7)

Driver age (age group with most accidents)

25 - 29

35 -39

Waldo County















peak day of the week

Wednesday and Saturday (based on full year figures)

Tuesday and Thursday

peak day of the week

5 p.m. (based on full year figures)

16:00. (25)


Jan (3) Feb (2) March (4) April (4)

Jan (2) Feb (2) March (0) April (3)

Distracted driving

Jan (7) Feb (7) March (9) April (4)

Jan (4) Feb (5) March (4) April (3)

Driver age (age group with most accidents)

25 - 29

30 - 34

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