Janet Lee

Janet Lee
Photo:Janet Lee, injured by a taxi partition.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Move over laws or safer partitions?

                                       "Move Over Laws" or 'Safer Partitions' ?

One sunny Sunday afternoon I was driving along a long, straight, four lane divided road, that is actually built on a causeway through a marsh in Lynn, Massachusetts. On my left, I could see some remote control aircraft enthusiasts playing with some rather large aircraft. They were large... for toys. I could see the flying models fairly well from quite a distance. So, knowing there was no traffic at all, I took the luxury of staring for extended glances at the toy planes doing tricks. There must have been a truck travelling in my lane, up in front of my car. I can only guess how far ahead it was, but he left behind a dumpster. A DUMPSTER parked in the passing lane! I noticed the dumpster in the nick of time and quickly changed lanes to avoid sudden death.

I considered who my survivors might seek compensation from, had I not missed that dumpster. I expect it is illegal and a deadly nuisance subjecting the person(s) responsible to considerable liability, to leave a dumpster in the passing lane. I suspect it is equally illegal to leave a dumpster in the break-down lane. Is a cruiser parked in the break-down lane any less risky?

There is a disturbing  and ongoing series of collision scenarios occurring. So many so, that many states have adopted "move over laws". The circumstances of the kind of collision I refer to are this; a cruiser operator has conducted a traffic stop, which involves parking in the breakdown lane, while 70-80 mile per hour traffic swooshes by, inches away.

Over the last fifteen years, scores of these traffic stops have resulted in fatal collisions. Rear end collisions, that involve high speed impact with a stationary car, are a frequent occurrence, usually involving a parked police cruiser. In nearly 70 of these crashes, the front seat occupant, usually an officer, has been rendered unconscious by hitting the partition with the back of the head and died in the ensuing fire.

Jason Schechterle

Jason Schechterle is a Phoenix, AZ police officer who was in a high speed rear end collision which resulted in fire. Jason was pulled, unconscious, from his burning cruiser while on fire himself.

Jason can attribute his survival the fact that there was prepared emergency personnel at the scene, when the crash occurred,  who pulled him out of the burning  car. Jason has told me he isn't sure what caused him to lose consciousness, "the impact" or "the partition". I know the "partition impact" is what caused his loss of consciousness.

Ellen Engelhardt suffered a serious post cranial impact with the partition and died after eight years of being a quadriplegic. She was in a collision which did not result in fire. Her head injury was clearly from contact with the rigid partition.

There are dozens of other cases that I can cite, where the officers have died, unconscious, in fires,  following rear end collisions, from Louisiana State Trooper Le, to NY State Trooper Ambrose. In the just the last two weeks two Massachusetts State Police Cruisers have been rear ended with officer injury.

This rear end collision/fire/death scenario must stop. The only way to end it is... to end the practice of parking dumpsters on the side of the road and while we're at it... maybe officers could get further off the road to conduct their traffic stops. A rest area, the next exit, something safer than the breakdown lane. I will not park in the breakdown lane ever, for any reason.

The 'police' solution to the problem is to provide severe penalties for cars that fail to "move over". I don't understand how a "law" can be more convincing than all those bright blue lights, in getting folks to avoid such collisions.

Another attempt to reduce the problem was to make the cruiser less likely to catch fire with more fuel tank protection and fire suppression systems in place. Unfortunately, if crashes can happen, fires can happen.  There has been some success, preventing some fires with these features, and as a result, fewer fire deaths. But what about all of those officers, like Massachusetts State Police Trooper Ellen Engelhardt who only suffered traumatic, and eventually fatal, brain injury, instead of burning to death?

Are we more concerned about losing the vehicle or losing the trooper?  Given that fires can and will always be possible, isn't the smart move the one that assures that the trooper is conscious and able to get out of a the vehicle, burning or not?

The current cruiser partition manufacturers have done next to nothing to address this problem. I make partitions that are certified to comply with all applicable federal and state safety standards. I urge your town to consider my innovative partition configuration. The short and long term savings are significant.

The Crowell Partition is designed to install without any need for power tools, for cutting or any drilling of the cars' interior. The Crowell Partition is designed to be retro-fitted from one car to another with little difficulty. The Crowell Partition is designed to be "low profile", it is not visible to the casual observer, until quite close up to it. The Crowell Partition is designed to eliminate departmental liability for injuries sustained from illegal partitions. The Crowell Partition is designed to be unobtrusive to the vehicle operator. The Crowell Partition is designed to comply with all applicable federal and state safety standards. No other partition manufacturer makes any of these claims.

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