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Lights & Siren....

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Emergency Services Vehicles McHenry County, Illinois

Lights & Siren....

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
September 19, 2008

When law enforcement is responding "hot" (lights & siren), it is incumbent on the driver of the vehicle to operate it safely. Officers are allowed under State traffic laws to "speed", to proceed through red lights and past stop signs, and they are required to do so safely.

About 5:43PM today a McHenry County Sheriff's Dept. squad car, No. 541, was barreling south on Route 47 past the Citgo gas station and Taco Bell at an estimated 60MPH. From the sound of the engine the driver was hard on the accelerator. He was blasting right down the center of the roadway in the two-way left-turn lane, although the inside southbound lane was mostly clear, because drivers had pulled to the right.

Once he got to Tommy's, he had to slow down, because the roadway narrowed and traffic was more congested.

Because of cars north- and southbound, 60MPH was too fast for safe conditions.

A call was placed to the sheriff's department, and I'm waiting for the shift sergeant to call me back.

The only way for supervisors to know of unsafe driving by their deputies is for the public to call and inform them.

Many officer-involved traffic crashes never get reported to the media. Two years ago I uncovered four of them in three months, and that didn't include the deputy who crashed his patrol car off-duty in an early morning DUI wreck.

Yes, we want quick response times. The call this afternoon might have been an alarm. Many alarms are false, so no one wants or needs an officer-involved wreck enroute to a false alarm. And certainly no one wants an officer-involved wreck enroute, if there is an actual alarm. The responding officer will never make it, if he wrecks his squad car enroute.

A quick response with the emphasis on safety is what citizens want.

Edited at 7:48PM. I appreciated the courteous call from the sheriff's dept. sergeant on duty. He responded professionally and courteously, and he was forthright about wanting his deputies to respond quickly, but safely.

The deputies often have a long way to travel to calls. I remember an end-of-shift call one summer night in Colorado. I was on the motorcycle and only three blocks from the lot, when a call of a barn fire was broadcast. I was the only unit still out, and off I went for the 25 miles to the fire. Lights & siren, too.

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