Published on Monday, February 20, 2006
in the Daytona Beach News-Journal
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Darryl Haywood Jr. doesn't remember the accident that almost took his life.
Nor does he remember the hours leading up to that fateful moment, but he thinks about how blessed he is to be alive every day.
"I'm just taking it easy, not pushing myself to do too much," he said. "For the most part I'm taking it day by day."
Haywood, 20, was critically injured last month when a pickup struck his cruiser from behind during a traffic stop on the Florida Turnpike in Broward County. He was parked on the west shoulder of the highway near the Miramar toll plaza writing a ticket when the incident occurred.
He points to barely visible scars on his chin and one at the back of his head, happy that he came away from the wreck with no fractures or broken bones.
But Haywood still suffers from muscle pain, dizzy spells and issues with his balance. He moves a little slower than he did before the accident and spends the days resting at his Palm Coast home.
"I still have pain here and there, but I'm better than I was when I was in the hospital so that's always good," Haywood said.
He also visits the Brooks Rehabilitation Center in Palm Coast regularly for physical and occupational therapy to rebuild strength and improve his motor skills like walking and eating.
"It's coming along great," he said. "When I leave there I do feel stronger."
The resilient trooper is still not sure if he will return to the highway patrol as he weighs his love for what he does and the dangers of the job.
"I wouldn't mind returning, but I'm pretty much leaving it up to my doctor," Haywood said.
For Linda Sharpe Haywood, the past month has been a true test of faith. After losing her husband, Trooper Darryl Haywood Sr., less than two years ago when he was killed in a crash on Interstate 4 while chasing a motorcyclist, her son's accident was like painful deja vu.
"I'm still afraid for him because he's my child and I know what the risks are, but I'm also understanding that children will do what they are compelled to do," she said.
As a protective mother, Haywood hopes her son does not return to patrol duties, but she is more concerned that he makes the right decision for his future.
She continues to be heartened by her offspring's positive outlook.
"He remains upbeat and his friends come around all the time and that's encouraging," she said.
In light of her son's accident and several incidents since, Linda Sharpe Haywood hopes to raise public awareness of the Move Over act in the Florida statutes, which requires motorists to yield to emergency vehicles on duty. Drivers must pull to the curb and stop for a passing emergency vehicle, and slow down and vacate the lane closest to parked emergency vehicles.
She hopes to encourage awareness through public service announcements and mandatory driver education materials.
"They should be aware of it to reduce the risk and save lives," she said. "The most important thing is to obey the law."
Haywood Jr. thinks about his father constantly, he says, ever mindful of how lucky he is to have even woken up at all days after the accident.
"I'm just happy to be home and I'm glad to be walking around and still communicating," he said.