Safeguarding the Public in Unsafe Conditions

Safeguarding the Public in Unsafe Conditions

By Stephen Owsinski

With inclement weather heavily in the headlines lately, the nation’s public safety professionals are out there doing their darndest to safeguard motorists navigating nature’s treacherous droppings such as snow, ice, and rain…creating unsafe conditions on highways and byways.

Some police cruisers aiding crash victims and stranded drivers find themselves in harm’s way, like a New York State Police trooper whose cruiser was struck by a semi as she tended to disabled motorists in snow banks.

According to a NY State Police bulletin, a state trooper was “assisting a disabled motorist when her patrol vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer on Interstate 81 near exit 49 in the town of Orleans, Jefferson County. The marked patrol vehicle was parked off the east shoulder of the roadway with its emergency lights activated when it was struck in the rear by a tractor-trailer. No one was injured.”

(Photo courtesy of the New York State Police.)

By the looks of that accordioned police cruiser, you’d immediately think a law enforcement officer was killed in the line of duty. Per the reports, though, no injuries were sustained.

I reviewed comments stemming from this wreck and saw differing schools of thought regarding semis and snowy/icy conditions whereby, even if they can change lanes (Move Over Law), truck operators have difficulty maintaining a tractor-trailer that goes out of control due to slick asphalt or pavement.

One person opined based on personal loss, saying, “MOVE OVER! I thought these guys were professional drivers.” She followed up with the loss of a “trooper friend” killed in the line of duty when a tractor-trailer slammed into a police cruiser.

Even though law enforcement officers are comprehensively trained in motor vehicle operation and how to position cruisers when aiding motorists for any reason, unsafe conditions throw the proverbial wrench in the mix and cause collisions no one can necessarily abate.

Despite Move Over Law signs making it clear what to do in certain circumstances such as law enforcement officers being granted room to work, traffic crashes are still transpiring. If police lights and instructional signs and snowy roads don’t collectively register, what will?

(Photo courtesy of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.)

In response to the young lady who chided the trucker and stated her cop friend lost their life in such a predicament, rebuttals were along the lines of unstoppable dynamics.

For example, one gentleman explained that “any vehicle can lose traction at even 5mph on ice. Tires don’t matter unless they have extremely long studs in them. Nor does weight, something hits a huge patch of ice…it’s bye-bye.”

To illustrate the point, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer in their cruiser recorded a tractor-trailer in a doozy of a slide down an icy expressway, praising the truck driver for skilled handling of the rig. (The irony of the transport company name “SWIFT” across the sides of the trailer. More irony: this footage was recorded by a CHP officer assigned to the Truckee Division.)

Per the CHP post, “Chain control can be implemented on I-80 over Donner Summit and surrounding areas during winter conditions. It’s crucial for drivers, especially those in big rigs, to be prepared for sudden changes in weather.

“Recently, we assisted a driver whose big rig experienced frozen brake lines. Thanks to the driver’s skill, we managed to ensure everyone’s safety.”

Unsafe Conditions and Then Some

With plenty of the white stuff blanketing their city, Lincoln, Nebraska cops had a whacko guy zipping around in a Bobcat skid loader, wreaking havoc around town, terrifying motorists, and targeting a Lincoln policeman in his marked cruiser. Here’s the scoop on this bizarre spree:

The debate surrounding this unique incident involves the restraint of the Lincoln police officer for not shooting the Bobcat operator: some supported deadly force while others praised the cop for not discharging his service weapon.

What do you think?

The Lincoln cop had his own life and those of citizens in the parking lot to preserve, while contending with a seemingly disturbed snow-removal contractor. Like I said, unsafe conditions and then some.

With the white stuff covering lots of ground lately, law enforcement officers are out there doing The Job despite the manifold dangers to themselves.