ROAD TO ZERO
UHP Troopers Urge Drivers To ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ For Emergency Vehicles
TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — State troopers spend a lot of time on the shoulder of the interstate, with motorists cruising by at 70 mph, and often faster.
Two Utah Highway Patrol troopers have been hit within the last several weeks, with a total of 24, so far, in 2021.
Troopers urged everyone to slow down and move over when they see an emergency vehicle at the side of the road before somebody is seriously hurt.
“We need the support of the public to make sure we’re keeping them safe, and that is simply by slowing down and moving over,” said UHP Col. Michael Rapich.
On Aug. 1, Sgt. Andy Pollard was hit while sitting in his patrol car on I-215. He was responding to an abandoned car when an SUV driving on the shoulder, that did not brake at all, hit him from behind.
You can hear the sergeant on his body camera footage as he crawls out of the car and over the barrier to protect himself from traffic.
“When we have someone struck, sometimes that’s the result of impairment, sometimes it’s the result of distraction, sometimes it’s the result of other things,” said Rapich. “But, every single time, it’s the result of people just not simply slowing down, realizing that there’s a hazard in front of them and moving over at least one lane.”
Trooper Thomas Burnam was hit a few days later while sitting in his patrol car on the interstate.
“I heard tires screeching and I assumed I was about to witness a crash,” he said.
Instead, he felt the impact from behind and realized he was part of the crash.
The motorist said he looked away from traffic for a moment.
“He was just going too fast and was too close, and he took that reaction time away from himself with whatever he was doing inside of his car, locked his brakes up, and lost control and went onto the side of the road,” said Burnam.
The trooper had some back pain for a couple of days but will be OK.
He definitely feels like he got lucky.
Burnam has been hit two years in a row, both in the first week of August, and joked he might want to go on vacation that week in the future.
Speeding and tailgating are at the heart of the issue, he said.
“We have people that are driving way too fast when there’s a lot of traffic,” said the trooper, adding that that doesn’t leave a lot of time to make evasive maneuvers in emergencies.
The legal and safe following distance in traffic is two seconds. At 70 mph, that’s a minimum of 12 car lengths.
“The really frustrating part of this is that every single one of these is avoidable if people just simply slow down and move over a little bit and give a little bit of space and realize… I need to be paying a little bit more attention,” said Rapich.
Both troopers are going to be OK.
They said slowing down and moving over for emergency vehicles is not just a courtesy, it’s the law.
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