PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL - The sheer terror that erupts from the scene makes it hard for authorities to talk about. Officers and troopers are faced with the reality of this frightening scene every day. Out of control drivers come within inches of taking their lives. Each case hits close to home especially for those who have lived to tell about it.
"I was on the midnight shift when it happened. It just happened so fast the next thing I know I saw headlights on my mirror coming straight at me," says trooper Taren Castro.
Castro's cruiser was crushed in May. She was on a routine stop on I-95 in Broward County when a driver out of nowhere plowed into the back of her car. At the time of impact she had only been on the force a year and a half. It was the second time someone hit her on the side of the highway. Now on light duty in the dispatch room from neck and back injuries she, like so many other troopers, fears the sight of another car speeding by.
"I worry more about being involved in a crash accident along the Interstate system moreso than being shot," says trooper Tim Frith.
Two weeks before Castro's crash, Trooper Patrick Ambroise lost his life when his patrol car was rear ended on the shoulder of the Turnpike in Miami-Dade county causing it to burst into flames.
"You're not dealing with 35 and 25 mile per hour vehicles that are coming at you," says Frith.
Instead they deal with vehicles traveling 80 to 90 miles per hour. Just how bad is it? According to FHP, over the last two years troopers have been involved in nearly 50 patrol car crashes which could have been prevented if people obeyed the 'move over law.'
That's why FHP has driven forward a public awareness campaign to get motorists to slow down and move a lane away from stopped troopers, police, or emergency vehicles just as the law states. While it's working they say there's room for improvement.
"You add in driver distraction issues and people just aren't paying attention and that's really the cause of a lot of accidents," says Frith.
Bottom line; there's not enough room to work with on these stretches of roadway making it all the more imperative to keep available space in mind especially since troopers can, on average, spend upwards of 15 to 20 times a day on the side of a highway.
"There's no need for an accident to occur just because somebody is not paying attention," says Castro.
There is more information on Florida's "move over" law from the Florida Department of HIghway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
There are also YouTube videos of
cam crashes and the reality of the
In the northeast this has been a particularly large problem. There's a non-commercial, grant funded project educating public safety personnel about this problem and how to best keep themselves safe when operating on the highways. The website is: www.ResponderSafety.com
Copyright (c) 2010 The E. W . Scripps Company and Angie's List
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