Local News

Emergency Workers Take Second Look At Driving Risks After Deputy Deaths

Posted September 26, 2003

— Traffic accidents are the second-most common reason law-enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty.

After a Harnett County deputy and a Wake County deputy were killed in separate crashes in the last three weeks, emergency workers are taking a second look at their work behind the wheel.

Funeral arrangements are set for Harnett County deputy John Strickland, who died Wednesday in a car crash. Strickland was responding to a call when he lost control of his cruiser and hit a tree.

Strickland was 38 years old. He just retired from the Army this year and was starting a new career in law enforcement. His funeral is Saturday morning at 11 at Triton High School in Erwin.

Strickland was the second deputy killed in a crash in the last three weeks. Wake County Deputy William James was doing his job when he died the night of Sept. 5. He was responding to a domestic call, but never made it.

James lost control of his patrol car, hit another car and later died at the hospital.

"And we will never get over it," Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said.

Harrison said one of the biggest risks is the road in his line of work.

"We train, talk about it, go through scenarios, train," he said.

After James' accident, Harrison said he wants more attention placed on the time behind the wheel.

"We don't have enough driving," he said. "I'll tell you that right now."

The sheriff said he wants to talk about more defensive-driving training. Over at Wake Emergency Medical Service, they are kind of in the same business. Over the last year, they have been talking a lot about driving, too.

"We were responding to emergency lights and sirens for every possible complaint from a sprained ankle to a heart attack to anything in between," said Wake EMS Medical Director Dr. Brent Myers.

Wake County responds to 45,000 EMS calls a year. After considering the driving dangers, Wake EMS decided to turn the sirens off on calls that are not as urgent. The sprained ankle is the prime example in that category, and response time is only three minutes slower in those cases.

Harrison said it is tough to think about that on the way to a call, but it is important to keep in perspective for the people his deputies are trying to help.

The young woman who was injured in that crash with Deputy James has been released from the hospital.

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