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State Trooper Thankful to be Alive

Published on Saturday, February 18, 2006
in the Tampa Tribune

LAKE PLACID - Florida Highway Patrol trooper Adam M. Heinlein, 33, said Friday he is lucky to be alive after a tractor-trailer traveling about 65 miles per hour south of State Road 70 on U.S. 27 smashed the door of his cruiser Thursday afternoon.

The driver of the 1991 Freightliner that hit the troopers car is Matthew Ryan Bledsoe, 25, of Dayton, Texas. He reported that he dropped a cigarette and was looking for it when he veered off of the roadway at about1:29 p.m. Thursday, eight miles south of Lake Placid.

Bledsoe, who was heading north, never saw the troopers vehicle or flashing lights, said Sgt. Dan Hinton, who is Heinleins supervisor.

I escaped death, narrowly, Heinlein said.

Ironically, trooper Heinlein was issuing a warning to trucker Marco Antonio Escobar, 34, of Immokalee, for following too close, when the impact occurred, said Hinton.

Escobar was standing near the right front fender of the parked patrol car and received cuts on his neck from flying glass. He was transported to Florida Hospital Lake Placid with minor injuries.

Heinlein was in the drivers seat with his left foot on the ground, the door mostly closed but against his leg.

We have to do a lot of work on our laptop computer, Heinlein said.

Next thing I knew something grabbed and sliced open my leg, he said, adding he was lucky he was able to get his foot back inside. I didnt see anything until the very last nano-second.

His leg was cleaned and bandaged by Highlands County Emergency Medical Services personnel.

Bledsoe was cited on a charge of careless driving. His truck was sidelined due to faulty equipment. A post-crash commercial motor vehicle inspection conducted by trooper Michael Merrit revealed the front brake steering axle was out of adjustment and the turn signals on the trailer were inoperative.

Bledsoes drivers log hadnt had an entry for three days.

Theoretically, he could have driven to Texas twice in that time, Hinton said. The driver was put out of service for eight hours.

He needs to be in a sleeper bunk, Hinton said.

My life is not worth a cigarette burn on the carpet, Heinlein said. People need to be aware of this Move Over law.

Things could have been a lot worse.

This could have played out so much more differently, Hinton said. Im thankful of that.

It could have been a matter of feet, he added. With the trucker hitting the rear (of the troopers cruiser) at 65 mph in a 60,000-pound truck, it would have resulted in the death of trooper Heinlein and Mr. Escobar.

Floridas Move Over law requires drivers to move over away from stopped emergency vehicles where ever possible or to slow down to 20 mph below the speed limit or to five mph when the speed limit is 20 mph or less.

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Drivers unaware of `move over' law

Police, firefighters need protection

Published on Sunday, March 12, 2006
in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

On Alert, an occasional Sunday series, highlights public safety issues or features a recent incident.

Many drivers aren't aware of a law designed to protect emergency workers stopped alongside the state's roadways almost four years after it was approved by the state Legislature.

Recent incidents, including the death of Broward Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Seguin, who was struck by a car as he made a routine traffic stop along Interstate 595 last month, resulted in the latest public awareness campaign.

"It's an effort to get the word out to the public," said Officer Bill Robertson, a spokesman for the Miramar Police Department, which launched a monthlong project to educate drivers. "The educational portion will continue for the next week and then comes the enforcement."

The Florida Highway Patrol and the Sheriff's Office have conducted similar campaigns.

The law requires drivers to either move over one lane or slow down to 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit when an emergency vehicle with flashing lights is stopped on the side of a highway or street. Emergency vehicles include police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, road maintenance vehicles, tow trucks, road ranger trucks and wreckers with rotating or flashing amber lights.

Violators can be fined with a moving violation and get three points on their license and potentially hurt people stopped on the roadside.

Along Miramar Parkway, officers recently watched to see whether drivers complied with the law when a patrol car was stopped on the side of the road during a staged traffic stop.

In three hours, they stopped 150 vehicles, including two Miramar city vehicles and a marked fire inspector vehicle from another agency. Drivers were informed of the law and given an informational flier rather than a ticket.

About 90 percent of the drivers did not know about the law, Robertson said.

Miramar resident Flor Cabutto thought she was being pulled over for speeding or a checkpoint.

"This is the first time I'm hearing about it," said Cabutto, who was visibly happy she was not being cited. "It makes sense; I am going to tell my husband."

Some drivers told officers that they thought the law was only for major highways. Others said they thought that they had pulled over enough or that they didn't have an opportunity to move over.

The excuses will get them nowhere once Miramar starts issuing tickets the week of March 20.

There have been no injuries or deaths to officers making stops or directing traffic in Miramar, but there have been some near misses. Robertson hopes the campaign will raise awareness among drivers.

"This is helping to protect officers not just for our department but other state and other local officials," he said.

There have been a number of recent incidents in addition to the death of Deputy Seguin.

Last month, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Adam M. Heinlein was sitting in his cruiser on U.S. 27 when aemitrailer truck ideswiped it, and Sunrise Fire Capt. Steve Grimstead was hit by a passing car at a roadside emergency scene.

In January, Trooper Darryl Haywood Jr. was struck while writing a citation on Florida's Turnpike just south of the Hollywood Boulevard exit.

And most recently, on March 5, a road ranger was killed while closing a lane near an abandoned vehicle on Interstate 275 in Tampa.

Since 1995, 147 law enforcement officers in the United States have been struck or killed by vehicles during traffic stops or while directing traffic, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Organization.

Between July 2002 and December 2005, 13,950 citations were issued to drivers for not abiding by the Move Over law, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Officials warn drivers to be cautious when changing lanes or decreasing speed.

"It basically comes down to paying attention, if there is a lane open, move over or slow down," Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Mark Wysocky said. "You can see the lights from far away, so start preparing and start looking to see if a lane is available."

For more information, call Miramar police at 954-602-4400 or Florida Highway Patrol at 850-410-0999 or e-mail fhp@flhsmv.gov.

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Move Over for Roadside Safety

Published on Tuesday, March 14, 2006
in the Lakeland Ledger

Between 1996 and 2000, motorists in Florida crashed into law-enforcement and rescue vehicles that were stopped beside the roadways -- with their warning lights flashing -1,793 times.

Those crashes resulted in five deaths and 419 injuries.

Those statistics prompted the Legislature to pass the Move Over Act in 2002. It has two basic provisions:

  • On highways with two or more lanes traveling in the same direction, when a law-enforcement or emergency vehicle is stopped by the roadside with emergency lights on, motorists are required to move out of the lane closest to the stopped vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so unless otherwise directed by an officer.

  • On a two-lane road, when police cars, ambulances, wreckers and other vehicles are stopped by the road with lights flashing, drivers must slow to a speed 20 mph less than the speed limit. If the speed limit is 20 mph or less, motorists must slow to 5 mph.

Many motorists still haven't gotten the message, although there have been some educational campaigns. A spokesman for the Miramar Police Department told the South Florida Sun Sentinel last week that about 90 percent of the drivers don't know about the law.

The Miramar department, he added, had begun a monthlong awareness campaign, starting w ith a weeklong education program. In three hours, the department stopped 150 vehicles during a mock roadside emergency. The drivers were given informational fliers instead of tickets -- and warned that the enforcement would be coming this month.

The Miramar Police Department, along with the Florida Highway Patrol and other law-enforcement agencies, evidently has decided that word-of-mouth among drivers will raise awareness: Crackdowns on motorists who don't slow down the required 20 mph on two-lane roads, or don't move over on roads with four or more lanes are beginning statewide.

Violators will be fined and three points assessed against their driving record.

Needless tragedies abound. Last month, Broward County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Seguin, 23, was killed when he was struck by a passing vehicle while conducting a traffic stop on Interstate 595.

The day after Seguin was killed, FHP Trooper Adam M. Heinlein was in his cruiser, parked along U.S. 27, south of Polk County, when a tractor-trailer sideswiped it. He was uninjured, but the violator the trooper had stopped was sprayed with shattered glass and had to be taken to a hospital.

In January, Trooper Darryl Hayood Jr. was hit while writing a ticket just south of Hollywood on the Florida Turnpike. A pickup truck veered into the rear of Haywood's cruiser, pinning him in the car for a half hour. He is recovering from serious head injuries.

A week ago Sunday, Donald Bradshaw, 66, who helped stranded motorists as part of the Florida Department of Transportation's Road Rangers program, was killed when he was placing cones to close a lane blocked by a wrecked car on Interstate 275 near downtown Tampa. A car driven by Benjamin J. Green, 31, drove through the lane closure and hit him.

Officially known as the Service Patrol Highway Assistance Program, Road Rangers assist stranded motorists along designated Florida highways. The program began in October 1995 in Broward and Collier counties, where FHP troopers reported that waiting with stranded motorists was taking up more than half their duty time. "The Road Rangers," said an FHP spokesman, "have returned our troopers to the highways where they belong."

Two Range Riders patrol Polk County's 29.5-mile section of Interstate 4 -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- from Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland to the Osceola County line. The uniformed rangers assist motorists with minor mechanical repairs, help with changing flats and provide gas for those who run out. George Williams of Davenport, a retired police captain, supervises about two dozen Road Rangers in Polk County, says to a DOT news release.

The Polk County service is contracted through Naples-based Coastland Auto Center. The company was the first to contract with the Road Rangers when the program began in 1995, and also provides services along Alligator Alley in South Florida and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, south of St. Petersburg.

An FHP spokesman told the Sun-Sentinel that the Move Over Act is basically a matter of "paying attention. If there is a lane open, move over or slow down. You can see the lights from far away, so start preparing and start looking to see if a lane is available."

Law-enforcement officers and emergency workers have a difficult and dangerous job. Motorists can make it a little safer by moving over on multiple-lane roads or slowing down on two-lane roads.

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PLEASE MOVE OVER!!!

 

 
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