New Hope Officer’s Squad Hit By Distracted Driver
A New Hope police officer says he’s “lucky to be alive” after his squad car was hit by a driver. Officials say the accident could have been avoided if the motorist had just paid attention.
On Tuesday, officer Tony Gust shared what happened to him on Aug. 6, shortly before 1 p.m., at the intersection of 42nd and Boone Avenue. According to police, as the light changed, Gust proceeded through the intersection with his partner traveling behind him. As Gust entered the intersection, a car slammed into the right side of his squad, sending the vehicle spinning 180 degrees. The police squad also hit another vehicle.
Reliving the Accident
Gust looked up at a television monitor, which displayed footage of the accident that was captured from his partner’s dash camera.
“Really is a shock just to relive and see that moment. I really did not know the full severity of it until watching that, just how bad it could have been,” said Gust. “She was already immediately upon my vehicle, to the point where there was no time to even react or turn or go another direction.”
Gust immediately got out of the car to check on the driver who hit him.
“I saw just the view of her car and the crushed front end, and how severe that looked. I just immediately feared the worst,” Gust said.
Driver Takes Eyes Off Road
The driver wasn’t on her cell phone, but her actions behind the wheel still had serious consequences. Officials say she took her eyes off the road just for a minute to reach for a water bottle when the accident occurred.
According to the Department of Public Safety, accidents like these are all too common in Minnesota. DPS figures show more than 2,300 crashes in the last five years that involve squad cars. Six of those crashes were fatal.
“You name it, people do it behind the wheel and so it comes down to paying attention and if you do need to take a drink, just make sure you do it in a way that’s safe,” said Mike Hanson, director of the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety.
Remarkably, no one was seriously hurt in the New Hope case.
“We were both very, very, fortunate,” said Gust.
The driver who hit the squad was cited with a misdemeanor for failing to stop at a red light. She wasn’t issued a ticket for distracted driving, because those cases involve electronic devices.
Two weeks later, there was another distracted driver-related crash, this time involving injuries, at the same intersection.