VIDEO: Trooper speaks about dangers of impaired, distracted driving

September 9, 2014
trooper-carr-2b

Trooper Sean Carr

(Seattle) The year was new, the weather still dark and cold when a threat to drivers intensified during the morning rush-hour on Interstate-5.

An SUV traveled south in the northbound lanes.

It struck one vehicle, then continued.

Then, it struck another. Still, the SUV pressed on.

Trooper Sean Carr heard the call from dispatch on that January morning.

    An erratic, wrong-way driver.

Carr understood the threat level.

“Lots of people are off to work, getting kids off to school or getting them to daycare,” he recalled months later.

As Carr travelled north on I-5, the SUV approached and showed no sign of slowing.

“I had to take her SUV head-on with this patrol car,” Carr shared.

Carr, whose wife and father-in-law are also state troopers, knew this was the type of moment he’d signed-up for when he joined the Washington State Patrol seven years earlier:  a moment to serve and protect.

Carr said he made a split-second decision.

“I knew there was a trooper behind me, who was actually a cadet, with his field-training officer riding with him. They were in direct line with the SUV behind me. There was plenty of northbound traffic already on the roadway… And I knew that she’d already struck two other vehicles and continued. And if I did not put myself in front of her, she was going to keep going.

“I made the conscious decision to sacrifice my patrol car, and even potentially sacrifice myself, to stop that (SUV) because as a state trooper, I believe in that; that I am here to run towards the gunfire.  I’m here to help people, save people and, if need be, to lay my life down for those people.”

The memory of the moment of impact on that morning nine months ago has stayed with him.

“I think about it every time I put on my vest on and jump in my car,” Carr said.

Incredibly, no one was seriously hurt.

Safety features built into the patrol car—crumple and crush zones—helped minimize Carr’s injuries.  His vehicle returned to the road after two-months in a repair shop.

Police said the SUV’s 19-year-old driver was intoxicated.

Carr is acutely aware that the driver and her passenger were fortunate to have survived.

“Absolutely.  And in previous years, I responded to, basically, a mimic situation: A young lady who was going the wrong way, southbound in the northbound lanes…. And she ended up striking a small pickup truck with two teenagers inside, of which the young  female teenager lost her life instantly. And the young male driver, he was in serious condition and in intensive care for several months.”

Carr recalled the moment when police first made contact with the impaired driver in that crash.

“We were literally putting the flames out on her vehicle while she was still in the driver’s seat with a broken leg. And she’s asking us, why did we pull her over?  She had no recollection or knowledge that she had just ended someone’s life and sent somebody else to the intensive care unit.”

Carr said that, in one year alone, he responded to three cases involving wrong-way drivers who were drunk.

“I personally can’t stress enough the importance of communicating with your kids,” Carr said.

“Parents need to talk to their kids about the fact that, you know what?  If you make a mistake, you make a mistake. But instead of risking your life and risking the lives of numerous other people, call somebody. Call your mom. Call your dad. Call your uncle. Call your aunt.  Your brother. Your sister.  Somebody that is sober and can come take care of you. You’d be better off calling mom and dad and letting them know that you’re not okay to drive, than me calling mom and dad and meeting them at the doorstep and telling them that you’ll never drive again.”

DOL produced the two videos below featuring our interview with Trooper Sean Carr. 


Family hopes their tragedy will push drivers to “look twice” for motorcycles

June 27, 2011

Need another reason to look twice for motorcycles? Robert Peffley’s family is sharing one from the heart; a story told in videos that are part of the state’s Look Twice, Save a Life motorcycle safety campaign.

In the summer of 2007, Peffley was riding his motorcycle near his Lynnwood home when a car turned in front of his bike, killing him.

Cathi Dykstra knows that the cause of her son’s death is a familiar one. So often, drivers  involved in these type of serious injury or fatality crashes with motorcycles say they never saw the rider. Just days ago, on Saturday, June 25, a 41-year old Port Orchard man was killed after a car crossed the center line on State Route 3 just north of Belfair, striking him.

Dykstra hopes that Pef’s story will reach people in a way that statistics and collision reports might not. Emotionally.

“When (doctors) took me in to see him and there he was, and all the light was gone. But there he was.  He was my baby boy…but not,” Dykstra shared on camera. 

After her brother’s death, Kimberly Peffley changed  her career path.  She now manages a motorcycle safety school, and calls her new job part of her therapy.

“I feel like I wanted to protect anyone out there who wanted to ride because he loved it so much,” Peffley said.

The Look Twice,  Save a Life campaign is sponsored by the state Department of Licensing, State Patrol and the Traffic Safety Commission.


May is motorcycle safety month

May 11, 2010

motorcycle safety transit ad

By Tony Sermonti

A 22-year-old man was killed last week in King County after speeding, reckless driving and doing wheelies on his motorcycle. The man was ejected from his bike and died instantly after hitting a tree.

That collision underscores why May is motorcycle safety awareness month. Last year, 62 motorcycle riders lost their lives on Washington roads, and DOL is working with other traffic safety agencies to reduce that number to zero by 2030. DOL unveiled a motorcycle safety awareness campaign last week using transit ads, billboards and postcards to communicate with millions of drivers and about 27,000 unendorsed motorcycle owners.

Riders can be difficult to see on busy roads because of their smaller size and profile. Motorists should take an extra second to be aware of what’s around them. An extra look could save a life.

Motorcyclists have their own responsibilities – they share the same rules and responsibilities of the road. The top three rider-causes of motorcycle crashes are alcohol or drug impairment, improper lane position and speeding. To legally operate a motorcycle on Washington roads, riders must have a driver license endorsement – or they could see their bike impounded even after a simple traffic stop.

For more information about motorcycle safety training and motorcycle endorsements, go to the agency website at dol.wa.gov, or call the Washington Motorcycle Safety Program at 800-962-9010. The safety awareness campaign is funded with federal traffic safety grant funding through a partnership with the state Traffic Safety Commission.


As Spring arrives, so do the motorcycles

March 23, 2010

With warmer temperatures and sunny skies around the corner, the number of motorcycles on the roadway grows. 

The Washington State Patrol strongly suggests that motorists keep special watch for motorcycles.  For example, when stopping at stop signs, check twice before proceeding.

“With the increased number of motorcyclists on the road comes the potential for more motorcycle collisions,” said WSP Captain Ken Ginnard.

The WSP recommends that riders watch for road construction, traffic congestion and surrounding vehicles.  It’s a sentiment shared by Department of Licensing motorcycle safety technical specialist Tom Fite.

“Always be alert for sudden changes in traffic and keep a margin of safety around you,” Fite said.

Motorcycle collision data show that approximately 60-percent of motorcycle fatalities are single-vehicle incidents.  The most common causes of these incidents are excessive speed, impaired driving and the inability to stay in the lane of travel.

“Whether it’s your first ride of the season or you ride frequently, be mentally prepared,” Fite said. “Challenge yourself to sharpen your riding skills. If you are aware of any bad riding habits you have, now is the time to make a decision to change.”

The DOL and WSP require that motorcyclists be properly trained, always ride with their headlights on and that they wear bright clothing and proper safety equipment, including a DOT-certified helmet.  Riders must also have the proper motorcycle endorsement.


The first driver licenses: DOL History File, 1917-1921

March 1, 2010

By Tony Sermonti

The first state laws that started formally licensing drivers came in 1917, when the minimum age to drive was set at 15. Then in 1921, the state started to get more serious about licensing drivers as more motorcars began to hit the streets. Washington’s ninth Governor Louis Hart created the Department of Licenses.

Beginning with the creation of the Department of Licenses, driver licenses were $1 per year, required ten days of driving experience and two signatures verifying that the driver was “experienced, careful and free from any infirmities or personal habits that would impair his ability to drive safely.” The funds collected from license sales went toward funding the newly formed Highway Patrol, now known as Washington State Patrol.

If a driver violated any of the few motor vehicle laws there were at the time, a judge could suspend the license by issuing a blue license. If the holder of a blue license violated a law, they were then issued a yellow card, the equivalent of today’s three-month suspension.

Traffic and vehicle laws saw no significant changes until 1937, when the Legislature enacted sweeping policies governing rules of the road, vehicle and equipment standards and driver education and testing standards.

More on what happened in 1937 in the next installment of the DOL History File.