Police Vehicle Responding to Emergency Call

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Steven M. Schorr, PE ::::

Case Synopsis: The collision occurred on a three-lane roadway oriented north and south.  There was one lane northbound (NB), one lane southbound (SB), and a center, dual left-turn lane.  A NB police vehicle with proper lights and sirens was responding to an emergency call.  The police vehicle, partially in the center turn-lane, was heading NB, passing stopped vehicles.  A passenger vehicle exiting driveway on east side of the roadway was turning left to head SB.  The left-turning vehicle turned in front of the stopped vehicles in the NB lane, directly into the center left-turn lane and into the path of the approaching police vehicle. The police vehicle hit the left-turning vehicle on the driver’s side, killing the driver.

Expert Analysis: The issues included the speed of police vehicle [i.e., was it excessive for the situation]; the propriety of the left turn [i.e., should the exiting driver have seen and heard the approaching emergency vehicle]; and police procedure issues including the evaluation of the “severity” of the emergency call relative to the actions of the police officer.  The engineering analysis established that the police vehicle was exceeding the speed limit by approximately 25 miles per hour.  However, the analysis also established that the hazard that led to the collision was the improper movement of the left-turning vehicle into the path of the approaching police vehicle.  Once the left-turning vehicle crossed into the path of the police vehicle, the police officer did not have sufficient time or distance to avoid the collision. 

Result: Case was tried to verdict, with the jury finding for the defendant police officer.

 

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