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Close call on bridge underscores danger of police stops

Pickup hit trooper tending scene of another crash
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper's car after crash
Posted at 5:50 PM, Aug 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-02 01:13:14-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla.  — It's the constant call we all hear from law enforcement, slow down and move over when they're on the side of the road.

A Florida Highway Patrol trooper is recovering after a truck crashed into his squad car early Sunday morning, while he was on the Cape Coral Bridge. Investigators say because it was on the bridge, there is even less room for drivers in hazardous situations.

FHP Lt. Greg Bueno explained that this happened because the driver of the truck swerved into the right lane, trying to get around the slow traffic, and hit the trooper's car.

"We're very aware of our surroundings when we are out there. In this case, the trooper was sitting in his car. So, he didn't see that coming," Lt. Bueno said.

In a matter of moments, one quick act led to the trooper getting hurt.

“The driver wasn't paying attention; the driver was carelessly driving and that is how quickly something can happen. That momentary lapse of whatever leads up to you not paying 100 percent attention to what's happening in front of you," Lt. Bueno said.

FHP said that the driver, described as a 50-year-old-man, was in the left lane on the eastbound of the bridge. The car that had crashed was in the right lane, with the squad car behind it. Investigators reported that the 50-year-old man in the pickup truck shifted into the right lane, crashing into the back of the trooper's car.

"Oh there is no doubt that it's a violation," said Dr. David Thomas, a forensic science professor at Florida Gulf Coast University and former law enforcement official. "Because one— the statute requires if you can, you move two lanes over. If you can't, you move one lane over— and if you can’t and you have to stay in that lane, it requires [whether you move or not] that you reduce your speed 20 miles below the speed limit.”

All 50 states have a move-over and slow-down law. Lt. Bueno explained that these laws are in place because of Law enforcement, emergency vehicles, construction workers, and so many more occupations that work so close to the roadways.

"We never like to be hit and it's something that is concerning to all of us," Lt. Bueno said. "All we're asking if you see us is simply switch over a lane, slow your vehicle so that we are not hit or someone else is injured."

Many people may point to the dangers of gun violence as what leads to many deaths of law enforcement on the job, but there is a real danger in being on the road for officers.

In 2021, nationwide, the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum reported that 62-officers died in firearm-related injuries on the job. 58 officers died from traffic-related incidents.

Lt. Bueno added that the trooper is in good spirits and is out of the hospital recovering. He also said the trooper should be back to work in the near future.

The driver of the truck was issued a citation for careless driving.