Hillsboro, Ore., Police Lt. Clint Chrz remembers making a traffic stop. And then he remembers lying facedown in the opposite lane of travel, unable to move. And when you watch the video from his motorcycle, you figure it’s a good thing he doesn’t remember what happened in between.
“I was standing there having a conversation with the driver,” he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer on Wednesday. “I heard a loud bang before I felt it. After the impact, all I remember is opening up my eyes. I was facedown on the lane of travel. I just knew that something bad had happened. I didn’t know what had happened, though.”
Chrz’s motorcycle had been struck by another motorist. The bike slammed into Chrz, throwing him into the other lane, where he landed on his head and was briefly knocked unconscious. He was fortunate that a car approaching the scene stopped and pulled across the highway, blocking traffic and protecting him. He was also fortunate to have been wearing a motorcycle helmet. His injuries were relatively minor — bad bruises and cuts on his left leg, hip and elbow and a concussion that kept him out of work for a month.
Many others have not been so lucky. In the past decade, 167 police officers have been killed by other vehicles while making “routine” traffic stops. And in 2005 alone, 390 highway workers were killed by motorists.
Because of the danger traffic presents to emergency workers, 43 states have passed “Move Over” laws that require motorists to move one lane over when approaching an accident or traffic stop. If it is impossible to move over, the laws require motorists to slow down to at least 20 mph under the posted speed limit.
“Those emergency service workers are on the side of the highway doing a specific job,” Chrz told Lauer. “Their attention is concentrated on what they are doing, so they may not be fully concentrating on the cars driving by. That’s where the public driving by needs to be aware ... if they could just move over one lane and give that extra 10 or 12 feet and hopefully we can save some lives and save some injuries.”
The only states that don’t have the Move Over laws are Hawaii, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and Maryland. The District of Columbia is also without such a law.
Chrz readily admits, “I was very lucky.” He had been a policeman for 15 years and patrolling on a motorcycle for seven years and had had some close calls but never an accident until last Nov. 1. On that day, he was part of a team enforcing seat-belt and cell-phone laws. His partner had pulled a car over for a violation, and he stopped about 100 feet down the two-lane state highway to watch for cars that did not obey the Move Over law by moving over to give the other officer room.
When one car drove past the traffic stop without moving over or slowing down, Chrz pulled the driver over. He had just parked his bike and walked up to the driver’s side window to talk to the motorist when he was struck.
“You’re on the side of the roadway and things happen,” he told Lauer. Since the accident, he approaches cars on the passenger side and tries to keep an eye out for what’s happening behind him, but police officers also have to concentrate on what they’re doing, especially with the possibility that someone in a stopped vehicle may be armed and dangerous.
“It is a dangerous job,” Chrz concluded. “You have a lot of cars driving by at high speeds and things happen very quickly out there.”