MOSS POINT, Miss. (WLOX) - One of the most dangerous places for law enforcement is on the interstate. A motorist speeding down the highway, distracted just for an instant or not paying attention, can be deadly.
Moss Point police patrolman Patrick McClain was reminded of that fact Monday morning.
McClain was one of two officers on Interstate 10 between the city’s two exits where an 18-wheeler had flipped and lost its load. A motorist struck McClain’s police unit in the West-bound lane. Luckily, McClain was in the median and not in his car at the time.
McClain said the driver told him he was going about 80 miles per hour when he first saw the police lights.
“It was raining, it was dark, and where we were located at, as soon as you top that hill by the time you see the blue lights, it was too late,” McClain said.
“The only thing to protect us out there is the blue lights.”
“A lot of things go through your mind," he said. "Like when I heard the tires lock up... all you can do is close your eyes and hope for the best.”
More than 150 law enforcement officers were killed between 1997 and 2019 after being hit by a car.
To try to reduce those numbers, all 50 states have a “move over" law to protect law enforcement. Mississippi lawmakers passed ours in 2007.
Violators may be fined up to $250 for failing to comply. That fine can go up to $1,000 if there is damage to an official vehicle or injury to any driver or passenger of an official vehicle, according to the Emergency Responder Safety Institute.
Of the 480 accidents worked by Moss Point police this year, more than 70 have been on Interstate 10.
“It’s not only for emergency vehicles,” said Moss Point Police Chief Brandon Ashley. “It’s also for tow trucks and stuff like that. Any time you see an authorized vehicle on the side of the road with lights on, you need to slow down, merge into the other lane, if possible.”
Moving at least one lane away is the safest option.
“People are going [fast]. They’re not paying attention,” McClain said, based on personal experience.
This is the second time his vehicle has been hit. The first time was while working for the Birmingham Police Department.