INDIANAPOLIS — A Speedway Police Department officer was seriously injured and is recovering after he and another man were hit while waiting for a tow truck Monday.
Police said the situation could have been even worse and they hope this serves as a stark reminder of why it is important to use extra caution any time you see a vehicle pulled over on the side of the road.
The crash happened in the 6100 block of W. 21st Street just after noon, when Officer Ray Tice responded to a report of a disabled motorist. According to Speedway police, his cruiser was positioned behind the broken down vehicle with lights on, he was wearing a safety vest and he was on the passenger side of the man’s car, but despite all of the steps taken to prevent an accident, it still happened.
“A driver pulled out from a nearby apartment complex and crashed into another car, which then crashed into the disabled vehicle, causing Officer Tice and the disabled motorist to be thrown over a guardrail and down into a ravine,” said SPD Lt. Jim Thiele.
According to Lt. Jacob McAtee, it’s estimated that Officer Tice was thrown about 25 feet to the spot where he landed over the guardrail and down the hill.
“Dispatch was monitoring that channel and he was able to hit them on that channel,” said McAtee. However, McAtee didn’t hear the initial call over his radio. He believes when the vehicle was struck and the two men were thrown away from it, the impact caused Officer Tice’s radio to change channels.
He credits Officer Tice’s level-headedness and ability to stay calm as he radioed for help.
“He remained calm the whole time and relayed information that he needed to and helped us know that at least he was speaking, and we could see him at the end of the day,” said McAtee.
Still, police said, Tice suffered serious injuries and spent the last several days in the hospital. He has since been released.
“Thankfully, he’s home recovering with his family. We’re not really sure what the timeline’s gonna be on that recovery,” said Thiele.
Police credited witnesses who were in the area for stopping to offer help after seeing the crash.
“It was horrible but there were also some impressive things that happened in the end,” said McAtee. “You see a lot of good in people.”
The driver that Officer Tice was helping was also taken to the hospital, although the extent of his injuries were not clear.
Police are thankful that both men are alive, but they want drivers to take something away from this situation that they believe could have been prevented had a little extra caution been in place by passing drivers.
“We’re all in a hurry to get somewhere anytime we’re going somewhere that’s human nature. We would just encourage people to understand that when there’s a vehicle pulled off on the side of the road, whether it’s a disabled vehicle, whether it’s an emergency vehicle, whether it’s a tow truck, anything like that, just please slow down a little bit,” said Thiele.
Thiele said, taking the time to slow down as you approach flashing lights or even a person changing their tire, might be all that it takes to prevent a potentially tragic situation.
“Things happen in the blink of an eye. One second they’re fine and the next second they’re not. Only by being cautious and slowing down ahead of time you can provide yourself with that extra opportunity to react,” he said.
“I wish people would pay attention to the red and blue flashing lights. Pay attention to any flashing lights, safety vests, people on the side of the road,” said McAtee. “It’s easy to get caught up in the things that are going on in your own life, but remember there are other people around.”
Indiana State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. John Perrine agrees.
“People tend to drive with their focus directly in front of their car, instead of watching what’s coming ahead. One advantage you can give yourself is to give yourself more following distance. That allows you to see further. That’s not just about stopping distance and when you see those potential emergencies developing, it allows you to formulate a plan, get into the correct lane, and avoid that dangerous situation,” said Perrine.
Perrine knows firsthand the dangers that come with having to pull over on the side of the road, especially a busy highway.
“We certainly recognize the dangers on our highways and do our best to mitigate those dangers through enforcement, visibility patrols, things like that, but if you find yourself stranded on the side of the road, the dangerous situation just significantly enhanced because of that,” said Perrine. “Just by the sheer statistics alone, sitting on the side of the road is a dangerous place to be.”
Perrine said these types of accidents happen more often than some might think, but fortunately, many times they don’t result in injuries.
“Sometimes it’s minor damage, even, but it’s not uncommon for an emergency worker, or police officer, trooper to get rear-ended, their vehicle struck on the side of the road,” said Perrine.
He’s not exempt. In March 2017, Perrine was struck by a driver while he was in his cruiser on the shoulder of I-65 during a snowstorm.
“A vehicle came along at highway speed. Other vehicles were slowing down because they saw me, this vehicle swerved to avoid hitting those cars, but swerved onto the shoulder where I was sitting and hit my car at full speed,” he said.
Fortunately, Perrine suffered only minor injuries in the crash, he said.
“Other emergency workers aren’t always so lucky. But we’re just asking people to pay attention. That’s what it really comes down to, limiting those distractions, pay attention because it’s not just us on the side of the road, it could be your family member on the side of the road and it’s dangerous,” he said.
Officials remind Indiana law requires motorists to approach cautiously when an emergency vehicle is stopped on two or four-lane roadways with emergency lights flashing. This includes:
• Police vehicles
• Fire trucks and rescue equipment
• Highway incident-response vehicles
• Highway maintenance vehicles
• Utility service vehicles (effective July 1, 2010)
• Vehicle recovery equipment (tow trucks)
“If you see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road, you’re required by law to change lanes if you can. If you can’t, you have to reduce your speed by at least 10 miles an hour under the posted speed limit as you pass the emergency vehicle,” said Perrine.
No citations have been issued in the crash from Monday and no other injuries were reported to the drivers involved in the collision before striking the disabled vehicle.