28
Apr
05

Based on a comment I received about my last post, I seem to have given the impression that I speed or drive recklessly without regard for the general public. In this post, I’ll attempt to explain myself and the “need for speed? commonly required by this job more effectively.

My work schedule is on an “as needed” basis. As such, I never have to rush because I’m worried about being late for work. I don’t fly around town in my personal car while running errands counting on police officers to look the other way. When I rush to a scene emergently it is with greater care than a majority of the population exercises when driving under the speed limit. In fact, more accidents (both fatal and non-fatal) result from inattention than from excessive speed. I can drive quickly and safely—I’ve been trained to do both.

Clearing certain types of scenes quickly is often a primary concern for the authorities. In the case that I presented, most outsiders would probably assume the primary reason for clearing the scene is to remove a public spectacle. Oftentimes the primary concern of those working the scene is for the loved ones of the person who just committed suicide rather than the bystanders that willfully gather around. The concern is this case was that the family members would turn on their televisions to the morning news and recognize the vehicle and the location before proper notification could be made.

To avoid such a possibility, the police department had intentionally avoided radio traffic about the suicide. This practice is a common technique used by police to avoid the media swarm that occurs after the local news hears of an incident over the police scanner. I suppose a tragic event like that is technically news—I have no idea why.

There is typically a very small window between the time that police arrive at a scene and the time that a passerby calls one of the news hotlines and the swarm occurs anyway. It is within this window that I am often called on to conduct my part of the investigation.

I can give dozens of other stories with just as much—or even more—justification for speeding. For brevity’s sake, I’ll stick to just one categorical justification—auto fatalities. Again, the most obvious reason to clear the scene of a crash is to remove the public spectacle. Also, Secondary accidents often occur within the traffic jams that are created by auto fatalities. Many people insist on rushing in spite of the traffic and create other accidents simply because they have it in their head that they are the only person late for work.

I cringe at the thought of a close friend or family member lying strewn across the paved surface of the road as traffic on the other side slows to a crawl so that everyone can satisfy their morbid curiosity. But these accidents are unlike typical car crashes that can be settled with an exchange of insurance information. A death has occurred and must be investigated thoroughly but expediently.

I can see now that the title I chose for the post was a poor choice. I didn’t mean to imply that I had a “Top Gun? style obsession with speed. I was merely providing outsiders a glimpse into my profession by using a situation in which speed was necessary.

If anything, I’m a more careful driver now than I ever was. I’m always afraid the person in the oncoming car is fumbling for a CD case in the opposite floorboard and oblivious to the fact they are drifting left of center. I certainly wouldn’t want to be responsible for causing someone physical pain or emotional pain because of the loss of a loved one. I’ve seen enough of that for a hundred lifetimes.

The following is an amendment to the original post:

Comment received from Scott at scooterksu.blogspot.com:

I was interested in your quote where you say, “I can drive quickly and safely—I’ve been trained to do both.? I was wondering if you were indeed trained to drive quickly in your personal car or was it specifically for an emergency vehicle. Because driving with sirens blaring where others know you care coming and will be driving fast is very different from being in your personal car with the drivers around you thinking you are just another inconsiderate speeder. Sadly, even in your “clarification? post you still come off as holier than thou.

I’m hesitant to clarify myself any further as I seem to be making my explanation worse instead of better. Still, you took time to comment, and I would like to provide you with a response. In the statement you quoted, I was merely pointing out that I’ve received specialized training to drive the way that my job often requires. My training applies to the act of driving and not the vehicle. I was taught to swim in a municipal swimming pool, but that doesn’t mean I can’t swim equally well in any other body of water. Similarly, police officers receive the same training to drive marked and unmarked vehicles.

I do not drive emergently whenever I want–only when required by my job. The times I have driven my personal car to a scene, it has been in an official capacity and I have acted in an official capacity. My personal car just happens to be the same model as many other official cars. You’d be amazed at the number of people who assume my personal car is an unmarked vehicle and move to the slow lane automatically. The same can be said of those who assume the agency car is a patrol car. As such, I typically have wide open lanes in which to drive.

I should also point out that I limit the elements of emergent driving I employ to faster acceleration, faster decceleration, and driving on average 10mph over the limit. It does not include running red lights, passing in no passing zones, acting out NASCAR fantasies, or any other traffic transgression that would create a risk to others.

Even when I have lights and sirens at my disposal, as in the agency car, I avoid using them. On numerous occasions I’ve posed more of a threat to auto insurance premiums with my lights flashing than without. In my experience all they do is make other drivers panic. I once had a driver in front of me swerve into the center median of the interstate and spin out when they saw my lights behind them. Other times, I’ve had drivers force cars in the slow lane off the right side of the road in their haste to change lanes.

Sirens are esssentially worthless. Nowadays car interiors are so quiet that sirens are difficult to hear when right next to you even without the radio on and ambient road noise. As proof, our state police typically only use lights for traffic stops.

As for sounding “holier than thou” all I can say is that was not my intention. Please keep in mind, you are reading what I have to say without the benefit of hearing or seeing me say it. I’m afraid sincerity doesn’t translate into writing as well as I would like for it to.

Thanks to all who have responded both positively and negatively to this post as well as previous ones. I am surprised I struck such a nerve with this subject, but I appreciate your input. I will continue to post critical responses from readers in the future. As for this particular subject, I will only respond to those comments that present a particular issue that I don’t feel as though I have already addressed sufficiently.

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8 Responses to “”


  1. April 28, 2005 at 8:42 pm

    I was interested in your quote where you say, “I can drive quickly and safely—I’ve been trained to do both.? I was wondering if you were indeed trained to drive quickly in your personal car or was it specifically for an emergency vehicle. Because driving with sirens blaring where others know you care coming and will be driving fast is very different from being in your personal car with the drivers around you thinking you are just another inconsiderate speeder. Sadly, even in your “clarification? post you still come off as holier than thou.

  2. 2 Lori
    April 29, 2005 at 4:14 pm

    Good grief….this person is way out in left field….and comes off holier than thou more then anything! I understand perfectly why you have to speed all the time and yes, it is easy to speed and drive safely at the same time, though we as common people who don’t have jobs such as yours don’t have the training you do. Any person in public service has knowledge of how to do this. I’m just amazed that someone even thinks that personal driving and driving on the job are the same thing. Maybe for some idiots but not all people drive quickly off duty.

  3. April 29, 2005 at 10:00 pm

    Your response to the original comment was thoughtful and reasoned. You did not discount the opinion and you carefully explained many different aspects of your job. I was fascinated to learn that procedures differ so dramatically from one area to another about the use of paramedics, etc. when you responded to another comment. Your response to the comment above was also helpful and considerate. As to the comment itself…there are worse things than coming off as holier than thou, such as coming off as a fatuous critic.

  4. April 30, 2005 at 12:16 am

    This is probably meaningless, but, for the record, I didn’t think you sounded “holier-than-thou.”

  5. April 30, 2005 at 12:59 pm

    umm i had responded to the other post before I finished reading this one..
    I say again.. please go whatever speed you can most quickly and safely get there..
    posted or not.
    m

  6. 6 Di
    May 1, 2005 at 1:46 am

    I don’t think you are coming off as Holier Than Thou either. I enjoy your posts for the well written and clearly thought out pieces that they are. Perhaps Scott may be a wee bit jealous?

  7. May 2, 2005 at 8:54 am

    Personally, I think an M.E. driving quickly to the scene of a death is a good thing and if you asked any ten speeders, you’d have a hard time finding someone with a better reason to speed. And the fact remains that if you were in fact an unsafe driver who frequently wrecked his car, you probably wouldn’t still be employed.

  8. May 10, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    I see that Scott was trying to make you look bad when in reality he is the one who looks petty. That is what you call KARMA. I love your stories they make the slow afternoon hours interesting.


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