Being a police officer of any kind can be a trying choice of a career.
It can be dangerous in a dizzying variety of ways. Being a state trooper is at the highest rung on the danger ladder.
Every time a trooper stops a car for speeding, or swerving, or texting, or for any other suspected infraction, the unknown awaits.
On the Northway, the element of the unknown is compounded because of the vast array of drivers who use that interstate. It could just as easily be a fleeing felon who will do anything to avoid arrest as a Sunday driver who lost track of the speed.
This week, we saw another example of the ways a trooper can be imperiled during a traffic stop on the Northway or Thruway.
On Monday, Trooper David Cunniff, who spent time in Troop B, which patrols our region, had routinely pulled a speeding car over on the Thruway near Amsterdam.
Cunniff had parked so as to expose his car to passers-by and protect the citizen’s vehicle, as police protocol mandates.
While he was in his car, however, a tractor-trailer truck hauling insulation from Ontario crashed into the rear end of the police car, fatally injuring Cunniff and also injuring the driver of the stopped car.
Why this happened had yet to be determined Tuesday. The truck had obviously strayed over into no-man’s-land, off the roadway.
Truck drivers, who pilot their huge vehicles for a living, are generally the most experienced and most savvy drivers on the road. Yet that truck driver apparently plowed full speed into the two parked cars.
We want to remind everyone that state law requires, when an emergency vehicle of any kind is stopped at the side of the interstate, that drivers move over into the left lane to avoid getting too close to that vehicle.
Sometimes, of course, another vehicle is already in the left-hand lane, in the process of passing your car. But instinct should tell you that your responsibility is to slow down and move into the left lane behind the one doing the passing. The priority is to avoid proximity to the emergency vehicle.
In fact, whenever any vehicle is pulled off the side of the road, it’s good practice to get over a lane away.
Cunniff, whom some people in this area undoubtedly knew, was 35 and a married father of two young children. That certainly saddens an already sad story, particularly at this time of year.
Imagine how you’d feel if you were that truck driver.
Take no chances. Get over into the left lane, as the law and common sense dictate.