‘It’s striking closer and closer to home’: Madison police remind drivers why moving over matters

Seven officers nationwide killed roadside in 2019
‘It’s striking closer and closer to home’: Madison police remind drivers why moving over matters

Madison police are reminding drivers of the importance of moving over after at least seven officers in the U.S. have been hit and killed by vehicles on the side of the road so far this year.

That’s more than all of 2018, according to Madison Officer Rick Wipperfurth.

“It’s always tragic,” Wipperfurth said. “It hits a little closer to home.”

Lately, he said, those deaths feel even closer, as police say they’ve noticed more drivers not giving them space during traffic stops on the Beltline.

“It’s concerning,” Wipperfurth said. “It’s striking closer and closer to home, and we want to do everything we can to prevent that happening.”

In late March, an Illinois state trooper was struck and killed on the side of the road. Just days ago, a Maine State Police detective was hit and killed while conducting a traffic stop.

“It’s terrible,” Sgt. Dave Meinert said. “I mean, we look at officers throughout the U.S. as our brothers and sisters, so it’s sad.”

“We have families of our own, and we’re often engaging in the same behaviors that these officers making national headlines are tragically losing their lives from,” Wipperfurth said. “It’s hard to think about and scary to think that accidentally could have been one of our own co-workers or ourselves.”

You may notice more police on the beltline today. It’s a reminder from @madisonpolice to move over and slow down for stopped emergency vehicles. More officers nationwide have been killed this year by drivers failing to move over than all of last year. @WISCTV_News3 #News3Now pic.twitter.com/nwr1sny5P9

— Madalyn O’Neill (@news3madalyn) April 5, 2019

He said on traffic stops, cars pass by quickly and too close for comfort more often than you might think.

“It’s a very uneasy, nerve-wracking feeling,” Wipperfurth said.

“It’s unfortunate,” Meinert said. “I wish more people realized the dangers of this. When an officer steps out of his car, you’re talking inches to the next lane. You can literally feel the car shake on the side of the road, so imagine standing out there and cars passing by you within inches, how dangerous that can be.”

On Friday, a team of officers conducted an operation, hoping to drive their message home. Meinert pulled behind squad cars during their traffic stops on the Beltline and monitored passing drivers, who by law must move over or slow down if they can’t switch lanes.

Violating the law can cost drivers a $187 ticket and three demerit points on their license, not to mention criminal and civil liability if they damage property or hurt or kill someone.

On Friday, officers gave more warnings than tickets.

“Because we’re trying to do a lot of education right now,” Meinert said.

It’s education police hope will keep officers as far away from danger as possible.

“Please move over,” Wipperfurth said, “to keep not only myself and my co-workers safe so we can get home to our families, but there’s also civilians and motorists out there on every traffic stop we’re on.”

Wipperfurth said police plan to continue this initiative with sporadic operations like this going into the summer.

Get your weather forecast from people who actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.