Keeping An Eye Out For Patrol Officers!

July 2nd, 2010 by

Let me ask you a question. Raise your hand if you’ve even had your car parked on the side of the highway and you were scared. Scared of the drivers flying by you going 60 mph plus? Scared you might not be seen? Scared you might get hit? Afraid to get out of your car? Well, this is scary for police officers too.

There have been times where I have been driving to work and I see ahead of me a police officer has someone pulled over. I immediately slow down and change lanes. I don’t want to A: fly by the cop, or B: hit them. I have seen on the news several stories of people who’s cars have broken down and as they are on the side of the road they are hit by a passerby not paying attention and driving entirely to fast.

I came across another such story this morning from Edmunds.com. I think it’s important to know what to do when you see someone on the side of the road, policeman, or pedestrian so that you can avoid an accident in your new car or truck

Here’s the story for you to read. I hope you understand that your vehicle is looked at as a deadly weapon and that is why safe driving is so important. Cell phones and all distractions should be put away so that concentration can be focused on driving. 

In less than a month, three California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers have died after being struck by passing motorists. The incidents have renewed questions about what the agency can do to protect the lives of officers in perilous situations.

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, California has taken several steps in the past to help protect CHP officers during traffic stops. In 2007, the state adopted a “move over” law requiring motorists to either shift to the left or slow down when they see an emergency vehicle stopped at the side of a highway. And, according to the Times, the CHP was one of the first agencies to require its officers to approach cars from the passenger side to keep them further away from passing cars.

 Despite such efforts, officers are often still in the danger zone when they stop motorists to assist or ticket them.

“The bottom line is you are standing on the highway and you are doing a very dangerous job. Sometimes on the highway an officer is in the wrong place at the wrong time,” D.O. “Spike” Helmick, a retired California Highway Patrol commissioner, told the Times.

The three recent incidents underscore that point. On June 9, Officer Philip Ortiz was making a traffic stop on the right shoulder of the San Diego Freeway in Los Angeles when he was struck from behind by a motorist driving on the right shoulder of the freeway. Ortiz died June 22 of his injuries.

Officer Brett Oswald died June 27 in San Luis Obispo County. According to the CHP, he was at a traffic collision site, had called for a tow truck and was waiting next to his car when a passing vehicle crossed over the double yellow lines and struck him.

Officer Justin McGrory also died June 27, in San Bernardino County. He was conducting a traffic stop when a vehicle veered off the roadway and struck him while he stood on the right side of his patrol car. A Las Vegas man has been charged with vehicular manslaughter in that incident, the Times reports.

As police agencies develop and refine their policies for officer safety, drivers can do their part, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California. Much of this is just common sense:

  • While driving, look ahead to make sure you’re alert to changing traffic and road conditions such as road work, congestion, traffic stops and road debris.
  • Engage in safe driving behavior — slowing down and moving over — when you see the flashing lights of emergency vehicles on the side of the road.
  •  Always signal at least five seconds before changing lanes. Look carefully and check your mirrors and look over your shoulder in the direction of the lane change.
  • Be aware of motorcycles, including those used by police agencies.  Motorcycles often become hidden in vehicle blind spots or difficult to see because of their smaller size.
  • Obey speed laws, traffic signs and traffic signals.
  • Concentrate on driving.  Avoid distractions.  Apply patience and common sense.
  •  Do not drink – or use other drugs – and drive.

 If you are signaled to stop by a highway patrol or police officer:

  • Look for the nearest safe place to position your vehicle on the right side of the road where the shoulder is widest.
  •  Keep your safety belt fastened, and make sure your passengers remain in their safety belts.
  • Turn off your engine.
  • Roll down your window and/or your passenger side window completely so you and the officer can speak to each other. As noted, in California, highway patrol officers approach vehicles from the passenger side for their safety.

I think this is very good information to remember. You can help save the life of  police officers and pedestrians just by paying attention and remembering the move over technique. What are your thoughts on this? 

 

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