Emergency vehicles get no respect

Muskegon resident Shannon Tober said she panicked when another vehicle came up fast behind her at about 2:30 a.m. Aug. 17.
Becky Vargo
Oct 15, 2013

The vehicle’s lights blinded her, and that’s why she didn’t move over before coming up next to an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of U.S. 31, she told Ottawa County Judge Craig Bunce on Monday.

But the police officer traveling behind her said she had ample time to get over once she saw the flashing emergency lights up ahead. And there were no other vehicles on the road at the time.

Instead, she drifted toward the stopped police car before jerking away, missing the police car by inches, said Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Officer Adam Hill.

Inside the police car, Officer Greg Walski was startled and then terrified when his unlatched door was pulled open and slammed shut by the force of the wind from the small SUV that almost sideswiped him.

The near miss was enough for Hill to pull over Tober instead of stopping to assist Walski, as he originally planned.

It is one of several incidents in recent months in Northwest Ottawa County in which motorists fail to move over for stopped emergency vehicles.

Tober was charged with a misdemeanor – failing to abide by Michigan’s Emergency Vehicle Caution Law – which has enhanced penalties of up to 15 years in prison; and/or a $7,500 fine if the violation causes injury or death to a police officer, firefighter or other emergency response personnel.

In Tober's case, there were no injuries and no damage to the vehicles.

Tober offered her apologies to Officer Walski and said she intended to get over, but froze when the car came up behind her. She said she didn’t know if it was safe to get over into the other lane.

During Monday's bench trial, Tober admitted to stopping at a bar after work and having a couple of mixed drinks before going home that night. The judge said he had to take that into account, even though she was not charged with an alcohol offense.

“Mrs. Tober did not use due care and caution,” Bunce said before sentencing her to $350 in fines and costs, or 35 days in jail.

“It’s a serious issue,” the judge said after court adjourned. “She had the ability to move over and she chose not to.”

Assistant Ottawa County Prosecuting Attorney Karen Miedema said this is the third case in the past few weeks she was handling regarding the Emergency Vehicle Caution Law. And they are all going to hearings, instead of people pleading guilty, she said.

Two weeks ago, a Grand Rapids man was ordered to pay $220 restitution to the Michigan State Police after striking a stopped patrol car on U.S. 31 north of Grand Haven. Jarvis Beene, 59, of Grand Rapids faced a failure to yield to emergency vehicle charge, Miedema said.

The state trooper was starting to get out of his car, but had to cower back when he saw the oncoming vehicle. His car door was hit and it took the mirror off Beene’s car, Miedema said.

“He would have been creamed if he had gotten out,” she added.

The Emergency Vehicle Caution Law states that anyone traveling on a highway with two or more lanes must move over one lane when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle. If a motorist is unable to safely move over, he or she must slow down and pass the emergency vehicles with caution.

The law became necessary because too many emergency responders were getting killed or injured when stopped along the roadside during the course of their duties, according to a pamphlet on the law put out by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.

"It is scary," Miedema said. “You have to get over.”

For more on the law, go to www.michigan.gov/ohsp.

-----------------------------

Comments

GH55

With all the added distractions available in our cars now a days, its a wonder there is not just mass carnage out there. All you have to do is read the stuff in the Tribune on a daily basis or look at the skid marks going across the roads to know that people do not pay attention when they are driving.
We see people blasting through guard rails down by the power plant, in mid-day, laws implemented to outlaw texting that are not followed, and generally lackadaisical drapping of the wrist over the top of the steering wheel as regular occurences.
People cruising in the left hand lane of the highway and rage if you make some effort, such as flashing lights to get people to pull over. Punishing others for your bad skills.
This is like the moth drawn to the flame, the car goes where the driver looks!
Mrs. tober is very lucky there was no accident, death or injuries, or she would have been tested for alcohol and be looking at a much higher offense.

kamara32

The whole part of this story was not told by the reporter. She was given a breathalyzer test and it can back under the legal limit. That's why she was never sighted for anything else. And on top of that, both officers lied in there report. The one that was behind her and came up on her with his brights on, was over a half a mile behind her with his brights on, then did over the speed limit with out lights or sirens on to catch up to her. And if he was called in to give back up for the other officer, the minute that he exceeded the speed limit they are legally supposed to be turned on. And yes I believe that she was blinded by his lights, because it has happened to me before. And at the point that he blinded her, they were both coming up on the other officer at the same time. It was not until that point did he turn his lights on. At this point he to was in the same lane as she was, and he to did not merge over to go around the other officer. In fact he was so close to her bumper that it could have been the air flow of his cruiser that blew the officers door open. And of course that officer isn't going to rat his fellow brother, and say that he was in the wrong. Don't get me wrong, I come from a long line of fire fighters and my family members now are firefighters. So I know the importance of people going out and around emergency workers! But I'm tired of seeing people get railroaded by cops wanting to get there quota of tickets, even if they have to lye. This being just one example, and what made it worse is the fact that if he hadn't been a cop and she would have merged over to the opposite lane she would have gotten nail by another car. In my opinion when thereare ddiscrepancies like this, than there should have been a little more investigation into this. And or finding out if there were cameras in there cruisers at the time. This reporter should have not ran this story without doing her homework first!!!!!

TooMuch

Agreed. It's hard to believe the actions or in-actions I see every day and the simple laws of the road that are not adhered too by people. If it were not for defensive driving there would be car accidents all over the roads!

zwesterhouse

It is bad out there. I always slow down to about 25mph for emergency vehicles. But every single time I get some person coming up my rear end and slamming on the brakes last minute. Flipping me off - screaming so loud in their car that I can see their tonsils. I coined a new term "Bi-Polar all over the road"

LessThanAmused

Aren't you suppose to pull over to the side of the road and stop until the emergency vehicle has gone past?

I'm not sure slowing down to 25mph would make much difference anywhere in town. If you're getting flipped off multiple times you may want to do a reassessment of your methods.

zwesterhouse

On US31 north or south of town in 70 mph zones. I didn't say I was in town. wait I better me more clear. When the officer has a person pulled over on us 31. People don't move over any lanes or slow down. They get mad as H#)) when I slow down to about 25 because they are driving about 90 and have to slow down. Can't move over a lane because traffic is congested. People blow their horns at each other and flip one another off. There is that more clear?

LessThanAmused

Uh no....my question was, isn't it the law that you're suppose to pull over and stop? Is that clearer?

If there's two dozen people out there on the highway and everybody is slowing down to whatever speed they want, that's the definition of chaos. There's a good chance that you're contributing to a possible wreck because you're not pulling over and stopping. I'd probably flip you off too if you did that in front of me. Of course, I usually pull over and stop so it's not likely that'll ever happen. Clear?

Tpeter

I moved to LA from Grand Haven almost 8 years ago, and the people out here (where the traffic is MUCH more intense) are nicer and let people in more readily than they do in Grand Haven. WHen I come back to visit, I am surprised how rude drivers are there. I've heard it from other people as well who live there, this isn't just me :)

Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on GrandHavenTribune.com? Create a new account today to get started.