A ‘Ride-Along’ with Dekalb County Police Department, Georgia

The original “Three E’s” of road safety* are still perfectly valid, even though more categories have now been added, but one of the originals — Enforcement — is my own career background and is therefore of particular interest and importance to me.

At the crash scene.  Sedan and SUV patrol vehicles of the Dekalb County Police Department, which is on the east side of Atlanta, Georgia. (Copyright image, 2019.)

The main purpose of my visit to the Dekalb County Police Department, to the east side of Atlanta, Georgia, last week, was to discuss and observe traffic law enforcement and crash investigations.  My host for the day was MPO Brian Whelchel.

Shortly after we went out in a cruiser, with me on a ‘ride-along’,  Officer Whelchel was informed of what in my own years as a traffic patrol police officer in Britain, we referred to as a road traffic crash [RTC] with injury.

On went the blue lights and sirens, and away we went — a very familiar scenario that brought back memories!

It wasn’t just ‘all lanes’ that were blocked.  Selfish drivers, in their own blind determination to keep moving, had blocked not only the shoulder of the highway but even the strip of ground between the median guardrail and the left-hand lane, in their quest to get by. (Copyright image, 2019.)

As we approached the scene of the collision, the three-lane highway suddenly had five lines of vehicles.

What exactly is it about drivers who — knowing that emergency vehicles need to be able to get to the scenes of crashes to help injured people — still think their own journey is more important, so they block the shoulder and even nearby grass areas in a futile attempt to get by?

See: Should the USA Adopt the ‘Safety Corridor’ Approach for Crash Scenes?

There is no other word for it:  These idiotic drivers, trying to use the shoulder to pass the tailback from the crash scene, caused very bad delays to emergency vehicles, including ‘our’ cruiser, trying to get promptly to the scene and the casualties.   (Copyright image, 2019.)

At the scene itself, when we eventually got through, a BMW sedan had allegedly collided with the rear of a moving Ford cargo van, knocking the van off the highway and down a slope, where it had rolled over.

A cargo van that had allegedly been hit from the rear while moving, and knocked down a slope, where it rolled over. (Copyright image, 2019.)

Marks on the road surface indicated that the initial collision had occurred in the right-hand lane but that was only my own observation and not a conclusion from investigating officers.

A police vehicle beside scrapes on the road surface which suggested the likely location of the initial collision. (Copyright image, 2019.)

The sedan, meanwhile, had clearly skidded to the median where it had struck the guard/guide cables.

Skid marks from the sedan. (Copyright image, 2019.)

It is our intention to add further posts relating to conversations on related topics that I had during what proved to be an excellent day with the Dekalb Police, and links will be added below, as and when this happens.

Not looking too pretty:  The BMW sedan being removed from the scene.  However, all of the damage appears to be confined to the engine compartment rather than the occupant area, and deliberate ‘crumple zones’ like this are a major function of crash protection for the driver and passengers. (Copyright image, 2019.)

From accounts at the scene, the injuries created by this collision were not life-threatening and hopefully not life-changing, which at the end of the day is the most important aspect.


*An additional, explanatory article will follow shortly regarding the “E’s” and the “pillars” of road safety.

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