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When will a bad accident happen?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

When will a bad accident happen?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
July 4, 2010

Almost daily I hear that familiar sound of sirens, and I wonder when there is going to be a bad crash on Lake Avenue between the police station and South Street.

As much as anyone, I appreciate the haste of police officers to respond to calls. Their response time is probably measured and becomes part of their performance rating. But is "flying" down Lake Avenue, at what could be an unsafe speed, justified?

Sirens are nice. They often alert drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to approaching emergency vehicles. But they are not an automatic license to drive beyond a safe speed. If a driver exits a driveway or street without yielding to the police car, he'll be wrong; and he'll be hurt. The police car will be damaged, and the officer may be hurt. And that officer won't arrive at his call.

Yesterday I saw two girls walking side-by-side "against" traffic on Lake Avenue where there was a perfectly good sidewalk just about 25' to their right. Laws actually direct pedestrians to use the sidewalk, where there is one. If this morning's squad car at 10:12AM had come upon pedestrians and oncoming traffic at the same time, what's the driver going to do?

When I lived in Lakewood, Colo., Police Chief Pierce Brooks had a very strict policy against running hot. If an officer ran red-lights-and-siren, he had better have had a really good reason to do so. Almost no call responses were eligible for use of red lights and sirens. Brooks did not want officers involved in accidents while enroute to calls.

I don't mind living on Lake Avenue. I don't mind sirens on Lake Avenue. What I do mind is the excessive speed of so many Woodstock PD cars running hot toward South Street.

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