We are all aware that law enforcement has a tough job to do in keeping us safe. That job can be made even tougher when members of the public are at the wrong place at the wrong time. This past Sunday, the wife of an Atlanta Braves trainer died when a Georgia State Patrol cruiser was speeding to aid other law enforcement in a hot pursuit and hit the car she was in with her family. Others in the vehicle, including her husband and son, were injured as well. In my experience representing clients as a Gwinnett County injury and wrongful death lawyer, I know this tragic loss of life is devastating to loved ones. My personal condolences go out to the family involved in this terrible accident.
The scenario is one we have read about before, but it never gets easier, especially when life is lost. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported that a witness, who saw a state trooper’s cruiser speed past him – feared something might happen and it did. He told the AJC that only ” ‘[s]econds later I heard a big blast like a train crash.’ ” The sound was the cruiser, its lights and siren on, hitting an SUV that was driven by the Braves trainer. The SUV was hit at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Memorial Drive in downtown Atlanta.
The cruiser was driven by a veteran Georgia state trooper, on his way to help other law enforcement in a chase situation. The trooper’s injuries did not require hospitalization, although he did get treatment at Grady Memorial. The authorities are working to reconstruct what happened in this tragedy.
Among the many scenarios that law enforcement must face, is the need to travel at high rates of speed when innocent bystanders are also present. It is possible that the trooper was not able to see the intersection or the vehicle he hit – because the witness noted it was at the crest of a hill. Authorities should be releasing more on the crash as information becomes available.
We want to remind our readers about what Georgia law requires in situations like this. Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 40-6-74 sets out how drivers must operate on the road when an emergency vehicle is approaching. It requires that “[d]rivers of every other vehicle shall yield the right of way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle or law enforcement vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer.” However, emergency vehicle drivers must also “drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway.”
In some situations, it is not possible to pull over to avoid an emergency vehicle. Perhaps in this situation, the emergency vehicle came along with so little warning there was no way for the driver to get out of its way. We will only know this after reconstruction occurs.
Georgia’s Move-Over Law is also important to remember. This law requires that drivers “move over” one lane when possible when an emergency vehicle with flashing lights is parked on the shoulder of the highway. If traffic is too heavy to move over safely, the law says drivers must slow down to a speed below the posted speed limit and also must be prepared to stop.
My professional experience as a serious car accident lawyer, has given me the opportunity to help families deal with the legal aspects of serious accidents and injuries. My law firm, the Law Offices of P. Charles Scholle has convenient offices throughout the Atlanta area. Please contact my law firm to arrange for a free consultation with me on matters ranging from truck accidents, motorcycle crashes, personal injury, wrongful death and estate administration.