Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hazardous Duty

Monday afternoon was a day filled with crashes and spin-outs as area residents had to re-acquaint themselves with how to drive on slippery roads.
Gosh, but we have short memories.
And I'm always amazed at how some folks believe that four-wheel-drive trumps a little common sense and caution.
The calls starting come in over the scanner about mid-afternoon when the first wave of workers and students headed home after light snow fell most of the day.
I headed out to one such incident just north of Mankato on Highway 169 where, according to reports, a car skidded across the median into the opposite lane, struck another vehicle, then rolled.
The driver suffered minor injuries but it certainly could have been a lot worse.
I had pulled beyond the crash and off the shoulder as far as I could, grabbed my camera and shot a few quick photographs before the accident was totally cleared.
But as I was shooting, even in spite of the slippery conditions and a couple of squad cars with flashing lights, traffic still flew by me way too fast for the conditions.
And way too close, as far as I was concerned.
Police officers will tell you that one of their biggest fears is getting creamed at an incident scene by passing traffic.
I can understand why.
At 60 mph, a car is moving at 88 feet per second. It might not seem that fast for an impatient driver behind the wheel.
But for someone along the shoulder of the road, having all that steel flying by just a few feet away is truly frightening.
All it would have taken was someone to lose control on the slippery road. The federally mandated safety vest I am required to wear at crash scenes would be of little value.
Perhaps it comes with age but I am far more cautious when I'm photographing such events, paying very close attention to passing traffic.
An old adage veteran photographers use to invoke about car crashes was that they would drive 90 mph to get there and then only 30 mph to get back to the office after being frightened by the sobering realities of what they had photographed.
Speeding to news events long since became history for this shooter.
Whatever is happening will wait until I get there at the leisurely pace of the speed limit or existing road conditions.
But all the impatient drivers out there need not worry.
I'll be in the right hand lane.