It was an evening cell phone call that alerted me to a vehicle accident on Thomas Powers Road near the end of my street.
A single car of twisted metal lay smoking upside down in a sage grass field.
All three unsecured occupants were ejected from the vehicle after flipping, then barrel-rolling, leaving a debris field stretched nearly 200 feet, plowing deep gouges, producing the smell of freshly turned earth.
One bystander was heard commenting that the crash was a result of speed when in fact speed is a contributing factor, never the cause of an accident.
I have investigated hundreds of automobile accidents, some minor, and some fatal, leaving images of carnage I can’t unsee.
From the frustrating fender benders where a little spit rub is all that’s needed to make things look brand new to a beloved family member whose simple errand was the last remembered whisper before one last touch of the flower-draped casket.
We have always heard, speed kills. A classic campaign to get drivers to slow down. But how fast is fast? When a car is traveling 65 miles per hour, that mathematically translates – using 1.46 feet to second per mile per hour – into 95 feet per second.
We are told in police training, the average motorist’s reaction time – from the time they see cause for action to the time their brain tells their foot to hit the brake – is usually one second.
And if a motorist is not wearing a safety belt, their body continues to travel 95 feet per second even when their car comes to a complete stop…another good reason for a safety belt.
That rate of speed does not factor putting on make-up, dropping parts of a Whopper in your lap, spilling coffee, inexperienced driver skills/elderly impairment, inclement weather conditions, or sending text messages. No one does that anymore since it’s against the law…right? Distractions paired with increased speed decrease reaction time and make accident avoidance nearly impossible.
I was on patrol, in a “marked” patrol car, while proceeding on a four-lane road and was passed by a speeding motorist. When I pulled him over, he insisted he did not pass me because he did not see me. My first question was, “Are you blind…can you see me…standing here?”
I stopped a man going 85 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone on the way to church. When the pastor tried to shame me into releasing the jail-bound motorist, I turned the tables and said I would let the preacher go in his place.
The wily minister thought a moment, patted the speeder on the back and said, “We’ll be praying for you, brother.”
I didn’t mind giving a speeder a warning if they were truly sorry and made me laugh. I stopped a speeding motorist one day and he asked me seriously if he was in big trouble, and I told him, “absolutely.”
The motorist pulled out his wallet, flipped it open like in “Star Trek” and said with a stone-cold face, “Beam me up, Scotty.” I busted out laughing, flipped his license in his lap and told him to slow down.
With over 37,000 motor vehicle deaths in 2017, and 1 in 3 blamed on speeding as a factor, and no one wanting more speed enforcement and tickets – what is the answer?
We used to have a sign in the police academy that read: You can’t help anyone if you don’t get there. Words to consider when you leave your homestead for the open road. Y’all, slow down.
The Precinct Press is authored by W.J. Butcher, a retired 26-year veteran of the Atlanta Police Department. Send comments, kudos, and criticism to: firstname.lastname@example.org