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Risks Increased for Police

USDOT Safety Hearings.
USDOT and Michael Ehline at Safety Hearings.

Take a deep breath and watch the video of a crash that almost killed a state trooper in Utah. The wreck on a snowy highway almost caused the death of a 13 year police veteran. The accident highlights major liability and public safety concerns in Utah and beyond.

The New York Post had a video and rundown of the incident, which nearly killed Sgt. Cade Brenchley. The Utah Department of Public Safety released the video for the public. While Sgt. Brenchley assisted a car which spun off the road another vehicle hit the trooper from behind. The resulting crash launched the officer into the air, causing him four broken ribs and a broken shoulder blade. The trooper calls the incident a dream, and that it was a miracle that he survived.

Reminder of the Move Over Law

There were multiple elements to the crash. Of course, poor weather played a role. But there was much more involved. Many states enacted a number of major driving reforms due to similar incidents. California’s Move Over, Slow Down law from 2007 is similar to laws enacted in all 50 states. The law requires all drivers to move over into a lane not adjacent to emergency vehicles, tow trucks, and DOT vehicles when safe. If this is not the case, the driver is responsible to slow down. Furthermore, drivers that do not obey are on the hook for a traffic infraction.

In addition, the accident is a vital bellwether of liability in public service. Public safety agencies from police departments to fire departments each carry heavy insurance loads for events like this. It also shows the legal options of police officers to hold reckless drivers responsible. This includes criminal and traffic actions but also in civil court. Courts traditionally support law enforcement in similar cases, especially if the driver was intoxicated or operating the vehicle in an irresponsible manner.

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