WEST GOSHEN >> A West Goshen police officer narrowly missed being struck by a car as he was writing a traffic citation on the shoulder of Route 202 on Sunday night. The car sideswiped the police cruiser as the officer jumped out of the way, and the motorist sped off.
According to West Goshen Police, Ptl. Kyle Maye was on a traffic stop in a marked patrol vehicle with emergency lights activated on southbound Route 202 north of the South Matlack Street intersection Sunday at 9:45 p.m. Maye had his patrol vehicle fully on the right side on the shoulder of the roadway and was not obstructing the right lane of travel, police said.
A vehicle operated by Robert C. Hogensen, 67, of Timonium, Md., approached the officer’s position and sideswiped the patrol vehicle, damaging the side of the car and ripping off the exterior mirror. Maye was aware of his surroundings and narrowly got out of the way in time, police said.
Maye got in his cruiser and pursued the car south on Route 202, where he caught up to the vehicle and made a traffic stop. Hogensen was arrested at the scene and charged in connection with the incident, along with several traffic offenses.
A state law that requires motorists to slow down and move over when they see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road is largely being ignored, but state lawmakers are beginning to take aim at the problem.
The Senate earlier this year approved a bill that boosts the fines and penalties on drivers who ignore the state’s “Steer Clear” law, which went into effect on Sept. 8, 2006. Currently, motorists who fail to move over or slow down will not only get in a citation that carries a fine of up to $250, but drivers cited for traffic violations in these situations face double fines. If that violation leads to a worker being injured, a 90-day license suspension could result.
The law, sponsored by state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44, doubles the fine for a second offense ($500) and quadruples it, to $1,000, for a third or subsequent offense, and a loss of driving privileges if serious bodily injury or death if it is a driver’s third offense.
“This law is being strengthened to coincide with the seriousness of each violation to help protect law enforcement, tow truck operators, highway workers and other emergency personnel who put themselves in harm’s way,” Rafferty said. “It is the motorists’ responsibility to slow down and move over when they encounter an emergency response area on roadways in this commonwealth.”
Kennett Township police recently switched to issuing electronic citations as a way to keep police officers on the side of the road as little as possible.
“We feel we can cut down on the time officers have to interact on the side of the street,” said Lydell Nolt, Kennett Township police chief. “It comes down to awareness and for the public to be aware of the (Steer Clear) law. Our officers are trained to position their vehicles in a way to protect themselves, but unfortunately sometimes there is not much they can do.”
William Holdsworth, Kennett Square police chief, said distracted driving often comes into play during roadside stop incidents.
“It really makes our job much more difficult,” Holdsworth said. “Distracted drivers are causing some of these incidents and near-misses. We teach our officers to position their vehicles to give them a barrier between traffic and the actual stop. Our emergency lighting is better on the cars so visibility is better at nighttime. As an officer, you have to be aware of your surroundings, all 360 degrees.”
The Steer Clear law states that if passing in a nonadjacent lane is impossible, illegal, or unsafe, motorists must slow down to pass at a “careful and prudent” speed.
PennDOT statistics indicate there were 76 crashes involving parked emergency vehicles in Pennsylvania in 2014 and 82 in 2015.