People often worry about police officers being killed by a criminal suspect, but the death of Illinois State Trooper Kyle Deatherage is a reminder of the danger from passersby during traffic stops.
Deatherage was struck and killed by a truck last week as he was conducting a traffic stop on Interstate 55. Sadly, such deaths happen several times a year in America. In 2011, five officers were killed after being struck by a vehicle -- two directing traffic or assisting motorists and three conducting traffic stops or roadblocks.
It's time for departments to rethink their procedures. We've all seen motorists pulled over on stretches with narrow shoulders or no shoulders. The officers expect other drivers to see the flashing lights on their car, but they can't count on all passersby to act responsibly.
At a minimum, officers should approach a stopped car from the passenger side, away from traffic. Even better, the stop should be moved off the road.
A national law enforcement safety commission recommends that stops take place as far from traffic as possible. Officers could direct motorists to pull into the nearest driveway, parking lot or pulloff. On interstates, officers could tell motorists to drive to the nearest exit.
With additional safety precautions there would be less risk of another officer suffering the same fate as Trooper Deatherage. Let this be his legacy.