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LEO Near Miss: Bad habits create bad circumstances

Surviving a collision while driving over 100 mph and not wearing a seat belt was a safety wake-up call for this officer


I had some great FTOs, but wearing your seat belt was not often discussed or instilled.


Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Near Miss is a voluntary, non-disciplinary officer safety initiative that allows law enforcement personnel to read about and anonymously share stories of close calls or “near misses,” which provide lessons learned that can protect fellow officers in similar situations.

The following submission involves a scenario where an officer realized he was not wearing his seat belt just before he was involved in a high-speed collision with a deer.


While working a delayed family disturbance call in a grocery store parking lot, an emergency tone-out sounded over our primary radio channel. Dispatch advised that an unarmed security guard working the exterior night watch at a bank on the outskirts of our town had been shot. The security guard relayed that he observed two suspicious males outside the bank, and as he attempted to make contact, they shot him. The security guard provided a description of the suspects and their direction of travel.

I was relatively close, so I cleared the disturbance call and responded to the shooting. Other officers arrived on scene prior to me and advised the security guard was, in fact, shot and that the suspects had fled the scene in a vehicle.

The location of the bank on the edge of our city led me to believe the suspects’ probable route of escape would be a nearby highway leading out of town. I asked my sergeant if I could hit the highway and try to catch up to them, and he approved.

I turned onto the two-lane highway and accelerated my Crown Vic to over 100 mph as I attempted to close distance with a set of tail lights I could see in the distance. This particular highway was wide and smooth with large shoulders, a large paved center median and great visibility. There was minimal lighting on the highway, but I was very confident in my driving ability and knew I could decrease speed if I saw another motorist’s lights coming from an adjacent roadway.

Then I saw a deer in the center median. Given my speed, by the time the deer came into my field of view, it was too late to make any rapid changes in speed or perform any evasive maneuvers.

My mind went through a mental check list prior to impact and immediately fixated on the fact that I had failed to put on my seat belt when I jumped into my patrol vehicle to respond to the shooting, a thought I didn’t have the entire time I was responding but a thought that hit me like a ton of bricks as I was about to be involved in a collision while traveling over 100 mph.

I had some great FTOs, but wearing your seat belt was not often discussed or instilled. We all know the “I don’t want to be stuck in my car if I get shot at” or the “I might have to bail out quickly” arguments from officers. Being the new, aggressive officer that I was, I jumped right on board with this thinking, until that “oh crap” moment when I saw the deer.

I hit the deer at 111 mph. The deer split my push bumper in half and cratered my front driver’s side headlight area. There was an explosion of blood and guts across my windshield. The front half of the deer spun around on the hood of my vehicle and the bottom half went under my front driver’s side tire. This caused my patrol vehicle to veer to the left against my steering guidance. My rear tires immediately lost traction with the pavement and began making a high-speed lurching sound as they skid sideways. I steered into the slide as I traveled across the wide center median and into the oncoming lane of traffic. There were no other cars in the area, so I was not at risk of a head-on collision. However, on the other side of the roadway was a steep decline into tall, solid, piney wood trees. As soon as I felt my back tires gain traction, I steered away from the decline and was able to safely stop my vehicle.

I had never wrecked a squad car before, so I knew the punishment wouldn’t be bad. But I also knew I was only feet from rolling my squad car and undoubtedly being ejected. I was feet from having my brothers work a second major scene, and feet from one of my brothers having to wake my wife up at 4 a.m. to tell her I had been killed in the line of duty.

The kicker is that this “unarmed” security guard brought a firearm to work with him and shot himself in the gut while handling it in his vehicle. He threw it in a storm drain and called in a false police report in an attempt to save his own skin.


  • Just like at the shooting range, create muscle memory habits that will save your life. Wear your seat belt every time regardless of the patrol area you work.
  • Don’t get overly excited while responding to a call to the point where you make mistakes that could cost you your life. Be mindful of your safety, as well as that of the public.
  • Know your driving abilities and your vehicle’s abilities, but expect the unexpected. Driving at 111 mph is too fast, and I have the video to prove it.
  • Recognize that initial call information may not be accurate, so do not make assumptions prior to arrival and getting all of the facts.


Support this critical officer safety initiative by reading and sharing the near-miss stories and lessons learned that your fellow officers have shared, and consider sharing your own near-miss experiences at

Established in 1970, the National Policing Institute, formerly the National Police Foundation, is an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit research organization, sometimes referred to as a think-tank, focused on pursuing excellence in policing through science and innovation. Our research and applied use of research guide us as we engage directly with policing organizations and communities to provide technical assistance, training, and research and development services to enhance safety, trust, and legitimacy. To view our work, visit us at