State Trooper Struck by Tractor Trailer While Conducting a Commercial Vehicle Traffic Stop – Illinois
On March 28, 2019, a 34-year-old state trooper assigned to patrol duties as a CVEO, initiated a traffic stop of a tractor trailer on the right shoulder of a 4-lane highway. After she conducted her inspection, the trooper was standing on the driver’s side running board of the truck talking to the driver, when another tractor trailer traveling westbound stuck the trooper, throwing her off the running board and into a ditch parallel to the highway. First responders attempted life saving measures but were unsuccessful. The trooper was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Occupational injuries and fatalities are often the result of one or more contributing factors or key events in a larger sequence of events that ultimately result in the injury or fatality. NIOSH investigators identified the following unrecognized hazards as key contributing factors in this incident:
- State trooper positioned in area exposed to moving traffic
- Commercial Motor Vehicle failure to move over and operating a motor vehicle while fatigued
NIOSH investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, State law enforcement agencies should:
- State law enforcement agencies should consider developing and enforcing a standard operating procedure or policy to conduct commercial motor vehicle inspections in an area away from moving traffic whenever possible.
- State law enforcement agencies should consider developing and enforcing a standard operating procedure or policy to conduct passenger side approaches when it removes or lessens the hazards of moving traffic.
- Law enforcement officers and other emergency responders should maintain situational awareness while working outside of their patrol unit and ensure they minimize their exposure to oncoming traffic.
- State, county, and municipal authorities should consider the promotion of public awareness campaigns to inform motorists of the dangers of driving while fatigued or ill.
- State, county, and municipal authorities should consider promoting public awareness campaigns to inform motor vehicle operators of the risks that law enforcement officers face while operating along the roadside and of the need to follow “Move Over” laws.
- State, county, and municipal authorities should consider wearing high-visibility safety apparel, such as retro-reflective vests, when conducting commercial motor vehicle inspections along an active highway to ensure greater visibility.
- Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officers should consider placing emergency warning devices when conducting commercial motor vehicle inspections along an active highway to ensure greater visibility.
Discussion: Although not a direct contributor in this incident, it is recommended that officers who are conducting routine traffic stops, or commercial motor vehicle inspections place emergency warning devices along an active highway for greater visibility.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. Through an interagency agreement, the National Institute of Justice funded a NIOSH pilot program to investigate line-of-duty deaths of law enforcement officers resulting from vehicle crashes and being struck by vehicles while responding to roadside emergencies and making traffic stops. These NIOSH investigations are intended to reduce or prevent occupational deaths and are completely separate from the rulemaking, enforcement and inspection activities of any other federal or state agency. NIOSH does not enforce compliance with State or Federal occupational safety and health standards and does not determine fault or assign blame. Participation of law enforcement agencies and individuals in NIOSH investigations is voluntary. Under its program, NIOSH investigators interview persons with knowledge of the incident who agree to be interviewed and review available records to develop a description of the conditions and circumstances leading to the death(s). Interviewees are not asked to sign sworn statements and interviews are not recorded. The agency’s reports do not name the deceased officer, the law enforcement agency or those interviewed. The NIOSH report’s summary of the conditions and circumstances surrounding the fatality is intended to provide context to the agency’s recommendations and is not intended to be definitive for purposes of determining any claim or benefit. The NIOSH report is not intended as a legal statement of facts. This summary, as well as the conclusions and recommendations made by NIOSH, should not be used for the purpose of litigation or the adjudication of any claim.