Trooper Crashes on Roadway While Responding to Reckless Driver Complaint—Kentucky

NIOSH LEO Report 2016-02
February 9, 2018

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

On June 23, 2015, a 23-year-old state police trooper was fatally injured when he lost control of his vehicle in a curve and was struck by an oncoming tractor trailer.

The trooper was responding to a complaint of a reckless driver whom Dispatch had advised was traveling ahead of him. Using his cell phone, the trooper called Dispatch to get an update on the location of the reckless driver. As the trooper entered a curve in the road, he lost control of his patrol car, which rotated counterclockwise, and crossed into the path of oncoming traffic. Seeing the out-of-control patrol unit, the driver of an oncoming tractor trailer applied his brakes and steered toward the shoulder in attempt to avoid crashing into the trooper. The patrol unit had spun approximately three-fourths of a full rotation, placing the driver’s side door in front of the oncoming tractor trailer as the collision occurred. The trooper died on impact.

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS

Key contributing factors identified in this investigation include:

  • Vehicle speed
  • Use of a cell phone while driving
  • Roadway conditions and/or weather

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

NIOSH investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences:

  • Law enforcement agencies should establish and enforce standard operating procedures for the use of onboard vehicle equipment and other electronic devices, such as cell phones, when operating vehicles.
  • Law enforcement agencies should establish and enforce standard operating procedures for the maximum miles per hour over the posted speed limit a law enforcement officer may use when responding to a call.
  • Law enforcement agencies and training academies should emphasize the driving skills of matching vehicle speed with roadway and environmental conditions.
  • Law enforcement agencies and training academies should consider including in the training curriculum techniques for managing adrenaline surge.
  • Departments of transportation should consider the use of supplemental traffic control devices in addition to the minimum specified by the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUCTD) to warn motorists of upcoming curves.

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NIOSH Law Enforcement Officer Investigations

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.

Page last reviewed: March 16, 2018