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The Cop Car Needs An Ambulance And The Lieutenant Needs To Chill

, , , , , , , | Legal | November 19, 2021

I used to volunteer with my township’s all-volunteer first aid squad. For overnight calls from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am, we responded by pager from our homes. I had a quick five-minute drive to the squad building where I picked up an ambulance and a partner before heading to a call for help.

One morning at 3:00 am, my pager sounded with a call for CPR in progress. I drove quickly (but safely) to the squad building and then headed by ambulance with my partner to the home of the patient. There was an extra sense of urgency due to the nature of the call, but I drove safely and legally.

Upon arrival at the house, I noticed a police car parked on the street in front of the house; it was standard practice in the town for police to respond to every first aid call. My intention was to pull in front of the police car and park along the curb. I slowed and started the maneuver. All of a sudden, I heard a loud crunch and scraping and felt the ambulance rock. I had hit the police car!

I pulled up and parked. There was nothing to do about the accident right then. We had a patient to attend to. As we entered the house with our equipment, however, the police informed us that the patient had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order so CPR had never actually been started. We had to wrap up some paperwork issues and were soon ready to leave. It was then that I approached the officer.

Me: “Hey, [Officer], I hate to have to tell you this. I hit your police car. I’m so sorry. It’s pretty bad.”

The officer and I went out to look. I had heavily damaged the front driver’s side of the vehicle. The tire was pointed perpendicular to the car and the fender was completely smashed in. The ambulance had a gouge down the back half of the passenger side. The scene was a mess.

Officer: “All right, accidents happen. I’ll call my lieutenant and we’ll make an accident report.”

Me: “I can’t believe I did this. I’m so very sorry. I’ve been a member of [Squad] for thirteen years. I’ve been driving for twenty-eight years and I’ve never been in an accident where I was at fault.”

The lieutenant on duty arrived and I explained what happened as best I could. To this day, I still don’t really know how I did it. Obviously, I was too close. But it didn’t seem that way to me as I was pulling in. It shook my confidence in driving. I was very embarrassed.

I was too shaken up to go to work that day, so I took the day off. Somewhere around mid-morning, my doorbell rang. It was the lieutenant.

Lieutenant: “Hi, [My Name]. I had to issue this ticket to you for careless driving. I’m required to do so for insurance purposes.”

Me: “No, you’re not. I’m a licensed insurance agent. I deal with claims all the time. There isn’t an insurance company in the state that requires a ticket to be issued in order to pay on a claim.”

Lieutenant: “Well, it’s been written. Here you go.”

I was angry. I knew the ticket involved points on my license and would cause my insurance premium to rise. I knew the lieutenant only by sight, as he didn’t answer first aid calls. He certainly didn’t know me, but he must have looked up my driving record and seen that I didn’t have any at-fault accidents and not even as much as a parking ticket in my life.

A few days later, at the scene of another first aid call, the responding sergeant approached me.

Sergeant: “Hey, [My Name], I heard about what happened. Did [Lieutenant] actually issue you a ticket for careless driving?”

Me: “Yes, he did.”

Sergeant: “That’s bulls***. The whole department is talking about it and we all agree. Do you have a court date?”

Me: “Yes, it’s scheduled for [date and time].”

Sergeant: “Great, I’m on duty that date. Here, take my cell number. When you go, speak to the district attorney. I know him. Tell him I want to talk to him.”

Me: “Thank you so much. I really appreciate this.”

On the day of court, I arrived and got in line to speak with the DA. I explained the circumstances of the accident. I also gave him [Sergeant]’s phone number and told him that [Sergeant] wanted to speak with him.

DA: “Wait a minute. Let me get this right. You were volunteering your time in the middle of the night for the first aid squad when this happened? And [Lieutenant] still issued you a ticket?”

Me: “Yes.”

DA: “How fast were you going at the time?”

Me: “Well, I was on a residential street and I was pulling in to park along the curb. I couldn’t have been going any faster than five miles per hour.”

DA: “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. I don’t even need to speak with [Sergeant]. You don’t deserve a careless driving charge on your record. I’m lowering the charge to impeding the flow of traffic. It’s a no-point ticket and the fine is only [low amount] instead of [much higher amount]. And I’m going to talk to [Police Chief]. He’ll have a chat with [Lieutenant].”

Me: “Thank you so much!”

And so it was. I plead guilty to the lower charge and paid the small fine. I was an apprehensive driver for some time after that. Since I didn’t know exactly what I had done wrong in causing the accident, I didn’t know what it was that I should be doing differently. Luckily, it’s now ten years later, and I haven’t had any at-fault mishaps.