LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) – New videos released Wednesday serve as another reminder for drivers who may be hitting the road for the holidays. Move over for emergency vehicles. It’s the law.
Just this week, law enforcement officers have had close calls on three different occasions.
On Dec. 9, just before 7 p.m. on State Road 54 and Sunlake Boulevard in Pasco County, the driver of a Hyundai Sonata sideswiped a Pasco County Sheriff’s Office patrol car and kept going, Florida Highway Patrol troopers say.
The deputy was not injured but was able to catch up with the driver and arrest him for driving under the influence, DUI with property damage, and leaving the scene. Jeffrey Stern, 67, has since been released from jail on bond.
Then on Tuesday afternoon, in broad daylight, Largo Police Officer Matt Steiner was aiding another officer on a traffic stop at 62nd and East Bay Drive when the driver of a Ford Taurus failed to move over and hit the officer’s patrol car.
That pushed that vehicle into the stopped vehicle – and then into the second officer’s patrol car.
Officer Steiner says he’s seen instances like this in training videos but has never experienced anything like this in person.
“I just hear a very loud, very loud crashing sound. And I felt a bunch of debris hitting the back of me. And I actually thought a car would be coming next … I wasn’t sure,” said Steiner, whose colleague wanted to make sure he was okay. “And I was like, ‘I’m not even sure. You know let me feel my legs and everything.'”
The most recent incident happened early Wednesday morning in Hillsborough County. A sheriff’s deputy responded to debris in the roadway on I-75 near the US 301 interchange. When he arrived he activated his emergency lights so other motorists wouldn’t hit the objects in the travel lanes.
Another driver hit the deputy’s cruiser while he cleaned the debris out of the roadway. The deputy was not injured. The woman who hit him was transported to the hospital complaining of wrist pain.
The move over law is aimed at protecting first responders and others aiding motorists on the side of the roadway. That not only includes law enforcement and other emergency vehicles, but also road rangers and tow truck drivers.
Just this year alone, three tow truck drivers have been killed while trying to aid other drivers.
Officer Steiner hopes other drivers know he and his colleagues also have families who want to have them home for the holidays. Steiner’s wife was visibly upset when she learned about his close call.
“I went home and told my wife about it and she was pretty upset,” Steiner said. “She hugged me and was glad that I was safe and not hurt.”