‘It’s a life & death situation,’ Troopers push back on rising number of squad car wrecks

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Troopers in both Illinois and Iowa have a warning for drivers.

It comes after a driver hit an Illinois trooper’s squad car overnight. 

Troopers responded to a driver that crashed into a pole in southern Illinois around 10:30 Wednesday night. 

That’s when investigators say another car rammed into a squad car and the trooper standing next to it. 

The trooper is hospitalized in serious condition.

“It is a life and death situation,” says Sgt. Jose Varela with the Iowa State Patrol.

In November, Sgt. Varela stopped near the I-80 truck stop in Walcott, Iowa, to help a driver involved in an accident. 

When he glanced in his rear-view mirror, he noticed a car speeding towards him. 

“You just kind of hope for the best, hope to survive it,” he says. 

The trooper has been doing this job for 26 years and says the close calls have spiked.

“This year has been abnormal. It’s a year that will definitely stick out in our minds,” Sgt. Varela says. 

Four squad cars have been hit in iowa this year and 14 in Illinois.

“You put the numbers of Iowa and Illinois together, it’s a big impact in our area, not only in lives but financially in equipment,” says Sgt. Varela. 

Iowa State Patrol tells Fox 18/Local 4 News that three cars in Iowa were completely totaled, costing taxpayers more than $68,000 dollars– and that doesn’t include lost equipment like dash cams, laptops or weapons.

“Cell phones are easy to blame but there’s a whole lot of other distractions in our cars,” Sgt. Varela says. 

Troopers are reminding drivers to pay attention.

“Some of those videos you see of officers getting hit… The impact and just the oh-my-god-factor, is just– Somebody wasn’t paying attention.” 

Sgt. Varela says the impact of one hit can last for years.

“The consequences are tough, they’re drastic, they can change people’s lives,” he says. 

He also says it’s important for drivers to be aware of road conditions before heading out, so that troopers don’t have to pull over and put their lives at risk.

Sgt. Varela says he hopes drivers keep that in mind so we can avoid any more squad car hits during flood season. 

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