TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Editorials

September 26, 2013

Safe streets start with all drivers — not just civilians

CORBIN — I want to first say before going any further into this column that I have a healthy respect for the law.

I should.

My grandfather and uncle were both Pennsylvania State troopers, and was raised to respect the law.

But sometimes it’s forgotten that they, too, are human, and react to things the same way as “civilian” drivers.

Take what happened to me the other day. I was driving somewhere in the area on a four-lane highway, seeking a street that was on the left.

I was in a hurry to get there, and was trying to find this one particular turnoff.

Glancing in the rearview mirror, I noticed a vehicle I hadn’t seen, and it looked to be coming pretty fast.

I was still trying to find the road, but was also focused on this speeding Explorer, which ended up so close to my bumper all I could see was the grill.

There were no visible markings on the vehicle that I could see, and then I kept hearing a noise like the zipper-like sound when the tires roll over the edge of the roadway.

Then I saw lights flashing from inside the grill.

Irritated that whatever this was hadn’t indicated it was an emergency vehicle, I got over into the right lane.

As soon as he passed, I saw the emblem on the side — it was a law enforcement vehicle — and was even more irritated that he hadn’t indicated that sooner.

So I went back into the left passing lane so I could find the road I needed to turn onto — behind the officer.

That’s when he shot into a turning area in the median, waiting for me to pass. I figured he wanted me to pull over eventually, so I did just that in the emergency lane.

Sure enough, moments later, here he was, all flashing lights and drama.

He was nearing the door, and I cracked it because my windows don’t work on the driver side. He yelled at me to keep the door closed.

So I did.

Then he asked about the windows, and I explained they didn’t work. So I went back to opening the door.

Now I understand officers have to be safe and never know when a random stop could become deadly — so I understood that move.

I asked what I was being pulled over for — and got no answer. Just a request for the usual paperwork.

When he comes back, I get lectured on the law and how illegal it is to drive in the left passing lane. I attempted to explain what I was doing, but was completely ignored and talked over. Basically, I felt like I was being lectured on getting in his way.

So I  spent some time stewing about it, and decided to look up the Kentucky Revised Statute covering driving in the left passing lane — and found out an interesting fact.

According to the statute, that law only applies to a four-lane highway with limited access and with a posted speed of 65 mph.

To be specific, KRS 189.340 (7) states: “A vehicle shall not be driven in the left lane of any limited access highway of four (4) lanes or more with a posted speed limit of at least sixty-five (65) miles per hour, except in overtaking a slower vehicle, yielding to traffic coming onto such a highway, or when traffic conditions exist which would prohibit safe use of the right or center lanes.”

From that I gleaned that in the Tri-County, that law only applies to traffic on I-75.

But what amused me more was the very next thing stated in the statute.

That next piece, KRS 189.340 (8) (a) states: “The operator of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having regard for the speed of the vehicle and the traffic upon and condition of the highway.”

So here I was, being lectured on the laws by an officer who did not act as though he was fully aware of those very same laws.

Once the warning stop was over, he proceeded to continue down the passing lane of the four-lane, at a very high rate of speed, for what didn’t appear to be an emergency, since he wasted his time pulling me over.

Now I am not speaking about every officer out there. I know and have faith in the fact that the huge bulk of officers are good men and women working toward the same goal — community safety.

I also believe that honest mistakes can be made — after all, they’re human too.

And with the high rate of traffic accidents in this area, it should be expected that law enforcement be vigilant when monitoring traffic.

But how safe was it for that officer to ride so close to my bumper? I mean, it’s expected of civilian drivers to follow the designated traffic laws — most likely had the tables been reversed and I was tailgating the officer, I would have been at least warned based on the KRS 189.340 (8) (a).

But if the goal for law enforcement is community safety — that officer’s driving style just wasn’t cutting it.

It isn’t the first time I’ve been pulled over by an officer with a driving issue. A few years ago in Virginia I was pulled over and given a ticket for improper lane change — after being threatened with reckless driving charges.

But it wasn’t like that. The officer was in the far right lane of a six lane interstate — and I was one of seven cars trying to merge from a blind on-ramp with 65 mph traffic. All the vehicles traveling with the officer in the unmarked car were merging into the middle lane — except for him.

Slowing down wasn’t an option — the people behind me would have crunched into me they were so close.

So I gunned it a little so I could get in front of this guy who wasn’t moving for traffic — and that’s when I got pulled over. I was none too happy, although arguing really got me nowhere.

Look, I am definitely all for safe streets to drive on — heaven knows I’m always behind the wheel beating the streets, roads, trails and highways.

But safe streets start with all drivers cruising regional roadways — not just the civilian ones.   

John Ross is a reporter for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at jross@thetimestribune.com

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