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Rapid Response: Reckless drivers make the roadway a hot zone

Virginia patrol officer’s dashcam video is another reminder that traffic stops can go from routine to life-threatening in the blink of an eye

What happened: On May 1 a Fairfax County patrol officer was on the passenger side of a vehicle on the southbound shoulder of a Virginia freeway. A northbound vehicle, traveling at a high rate of speed lost control, spun around and crossed the median. After crossing both southbound lanes the out-of-control vehicle struck the parked vehicle and then the officer’s vehicle. As shown in the officer’s dashcam video, the officer was nearly struck and amazingly only sustained minor injuries. The officer immediately reported the incident to dispatch and began to assess the vehicle occupants for injuries. The occupants only sustained minor injuries. The juvenile driver of the out-of-control vehicle was charged with reckless driving.

Why it matters: “This is an important reminder that life can change in an instant,” Fairfax County Police Department said in a statement. “It is the driver’s responsibility to drive safely and arrive safely.”

The video is another near-death reminder that any roadway is extremely dangerous for law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics. Often with tragic consequences, too many vehicle drivers are intoxicated, distracted, shamelessly violating laws or simply choosing to ignore traffic safety norms.

Roadway safety reminders: As you watch this video, remember these key points about roadway safety and roadside operations.

  • The roadway is a hot zone with constant risk to life and health.
  • Minimize your exposure in the hot zone by time, distance and shielding, which might involve signs and traffic pattern changes to slow approaching vehicles, working as far off the roadway as possible and using blocking vehicles to protect the scene.
  • Maximize visibility of the emergency scene with warning lights, vehicles, signs and traffic safety equipment.

What’s next: Traffic stops, even when first responders follow recommended guidelines to reduce risk, can go from routine to life-threatening in the blink of an eye. Always be situationally aware and be ready to move away from harm.

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Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1, EMS1 and Gov1. Greg has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, paramedic and runner. Greg is a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Ask questions or submit article ideas to Greg by emailing him at and connect with him on LinkedIn.