GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- A Guntersville Police officer is home recovering. A driver hit him in his patrol car going about 50 miles an hour while the officer was on duty assisting a wreck.
"There had been a fairly serious accident at the top of 69 at Georgia Mountain here in Guntersville. Our officer was actually helping with traffic control with that accident, assisting the State Troopers," Guntersville Police Chief Jim Peterson said.
That was Saturday evening. The other driver didn't see the patrol car. "It's a bad time of day, particularly with the sun setting. A gentleman coming up 69 did not see that there was a patrol car parked in the road with its emergency lights on," Peterson added.
The driver crashed into the car with Officer Andrew Burnham in it, traveling about 50 miles an hour. "There's no excessive speed on that motorist's part and apparently it was simply an issue of him not being able to see the car in the roadway," Peterson said.
Emergency responders took Officer Burnham to Huntsville Hospital. "As of this time right now he has probably a mild concussion and possibly some neck and back injuries that are being evaluated actually, today," Peterson explained.
It's a situation that could have been a lot worse. "The car will be totaled," Peterson said, "You can see the rear end is pushed all the way to the rear wheels. The car did hold up well." The other driver was okay.
This is a stark reminder that officers and emergency responders are vulnerable while they're working in traffic.
It wasn't the case in this situation, but at times the people there to help are injured from negligence.
"It is a problem that we encounter nationwide with officers and all emergency workers on the roadway," Peterson said, "Every year there's about a 50 percent split between felonious assaults on officers that cause injury or death, and about 50 percent that's involved someway with a motor vehicle accident."
Curious drivers can get distracted passing an emergency situation, sometimes even taking pictures of video, and that's - obviously - a dangerous situation."In no way is it safe to do that while you're operating a vehicle," Peterson added.
It's not safe for you and not safe for the emergency workers.
When you see a stopped emergency vehicle, the only things you should do as a driver are pay attention, move over, and slow down.
"You're required to move over one lane on a multi-lane highway, or if you cannot do that, reduce your speed by at least 25 miles an hour," Peterson said.
That's the law.
Officer Burnham will be off duty until he's cleared by a doctor to return.