Thursday, April 26, 2012

Harangue -- Maybe Life and Death

harangue: An impassioned, disputatious public speech; A tirade or rant, whether spoken or written; To give a forceful and lengthy lecture or criticism to someone.

A few weeks ago, on March 12 to be exact, at a little after 4:00 AM, a motorcycle rider was being chased by a State Highway Patrol Trooper.  The motorcycle rider was speeding and would not stop.  Rather, he ran, at high speed.  He came near my house. 

It happened that I was lying awake, tossing and turning in my bed with the windows open that morning. I heard the bike wind up tightly several times, probably on the straights. I heard the siren of the police car following him.  The trooper's car failed to make a curve, left the road into a wooded area and down an embankment, turned over, and caught fire.  The officer was pinned in the vehicle, and had suffered two broken legs.  From a police video, I saw how close the officer came to losing his life in the burning vehicle.

WYFF News photo

View Larger Map

I drove past the crash site (at Pushpin "B" on the map above), and noticed something striking.  Just south of the place where the trooper went off the road, there are these new, and brightly-reflectorized signs. They certainly let you know there is a stop sign ahead.

Notice that the signs point STRAIGHT AHEAD, warning of the stop sign.  The fact that the road turns to the right is completely obscured by a rise in the road at the same place where the signs are. There are NO curve-ahead signs whatsoever, in either direction.

A closer view.

What would any motorist think?  That the road continues straight, of course! 

Here is what lurks just beyond the signs, however:

Note that the left side of the road is pitch black.  A gully is there about 20 feet deep, and many trees.

There are no curve warning signs here either.  Like this one:
At high speed, this curve could be a killer.  I believe the lack of proper signage contributed to the accident. The LEO probably was not familiar with the road. I'll bet the biker was, and knew to turn even before the rise.

Here are some views in the daylight:
No sign of a curve.

This shot is taken even with the stop warning signs.
Now you can see the curve in the road, but the stop signs are not yet visible.

Here is where the patrol car went off the road.  That largest tree, just right of center has a large scar on its near side.  It and the trees further down in the gully are charred from the fire. 
 I don't know how the car got through the trees to its resting place beyond the big tree.  It is a wonder the officer wasn't killed on impact. 

Now, before we get into the debate about whether the officer should have been chasing the biker, consider the following:
  • LEOs cannot and should not make it a policy not to chase bikes. If that were the case, others who currently have respect for the laws of the road would begin to have less respect -- they would take more chances, and be more likely to break the laws.
  • Many who ride find that the motorcycle is easy to ride faster than the speed limit. Doing so, especially at 100 miles per hour, does not make it right.  The biker should have stopped.
  • We do not know whether there was some infraction besides speeding that morning that caused the patrolman to take chase. 
  • The officer made a decision to continue the chase. We do not know why.  I expect, however, that he must make such decisions -- and even more weighty ones -- many times during a week of duty.  I wonder how many of us can consistently make the best -- some will, after the fact, say CORRECT -- decisions under pressure.
This is just one more example, where our government spends piles of our money, but where the practical results are lacking. 

Makes me mad as I can be. You too, I hope. 

The motorcyclist is still at large.  If you have information, contact Crime Stoppers of Pickens County at 898-KOPS (898-5677).  There is a reward for information.

Previous Harangues:


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