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Lights, Sirens Should Be Required for Police Speeding to Scene

That's the intersection in Oakland Park, looking north, where 14-year-old Cara Dyan Catlin was killed in January in a collision with a Broward Sheriff's deputy who was speeding in response to another deputy's call for backup at a traffic stop.

In the screen shot, you can see the left turn lane on Dixie, and you can imagine how Catlin's stepsister, 21-year-old Heather Meyer, would have checked the southbound traffic before making that turn onto NE 56th Street. At 9:55 p.m. on a midwinter night, however, a driver can see only headlights, which might make it harder to judge the speed of an oncoming car. It being a 40-mph zone, you can imagine how Meyer might have guessed that the headlights on the car being driven by Deputy Frank McCurrie were too far away to pose a threat -- except that he was traveling 89 mph.

That's the speed that BSO investigators concluded from their analysis of the crash site. The agency acknowledged that McCurrie had not activated either his siren or his lights, but officials have made clear that he was not required to have done so.

If not, then they'd better hurry up and make that a requirement.

It's usually foolhardy to use a single tragic event like this one as a basis for changing rules, but this is an exception. With the image above as a visual aid, let's reconstruct the night of January 23 and add lights to the roof of McCurrie's car.

In this scenario, Meyer is in that same left-turn lane, looking north at oncoming traffic, except this time, the two headlights she sees are joined by red-and-blue flashing bulbs. You can imagine how she'd be inclined to guess that the police vehicle was speeding and that she ought not turn into its path, no matter how far away it appeared in that moment.

To be fair, it's still too early to assign blame in this particular accident; we don't know whether there were some other factors at work. But common sense tells us that a car traveling more than twice the speed limit is a danger to other drivers and that if the driver of that speeding car can warn those drivers with the flick of a light switch, he ought to do so.

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Thomas Francis

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