Chief: Monroe officer injury again shows that drivers don’t follow traffic laws

A crash involving a Monroe police cruiser that injured the officer inside has again underlined the importance of drivers slowing down and moving over when they approach any first responder, public works or trash collecting vehicles with flashing lights, officials said.

Monroe police officer Drew Aspacher was inside his stopped cruiser with his overhead lights activated in the southbound lanes of Ohio 4 near Apple Knoll Lane during the Tuesday afternoon incident, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Hamilton post.

Aspacher was just about to clear the scene after responding to a call of suspicious activity that resulted in an arrest when his cruiser was struck in the rear by a southbound 2011 Chevrolet pickup truck. The pickup continued off the left side of the roadway and into the median. The cruiser was spun around into a driveway and front yard.

Both Aspacher and the pickup truck driver, Jodie Gabbard, 46, of Middletown, were transported to local hospitals.

The incident came within a month of two high-profile incidents that involved first-responders struck and killed while responding to scenes. Colerain Twp. officer Dale Woods was hit by a pickup truck outside his cruiser on Jan. 4 on Colerain Avenue and later died. On Jan. 12, Illinois state trooper Christopher Lambert, a former Madison High School student, was struck by a driver on Interstate 294 in Northbrook, Ill., and was killed.

Monroe Police Chief Bob Buchanan told the Journal-News that police continue to see motorists not following traffic laws.

“We’ve seen in the area an officer from Colerain Twp. being laid to rest last week after being struck by a vehicle while investigating an accident,” Buchanan said. “This is ever present on our minds and is why we ask people to slow down and move over when they see police, other first responder, utility and public works vehicles on the side of the road.”

Buchanan said there have been instances in the area where police cruisers have been struck by other vehicles while working traffic scenes.

Aspacher was transported to West Chester Hospital where he was treated and released. Buchanan said Aspacher has been with the Monroe police since 2013.

That section of Ohio 4 south was closed for more than two hours as troopers conducted their crash investigation. OSP Sgt. Jeff Staples said that no citations have been issued but are forthcoming.

The crash remains under investigation by the highway patrol’s Hamilton post.

The patrol said Ohio’s Move Over Law requires motorists to cautiously shift over one lane – or slow down if changing lanes is not possible – when passing any vehicle with flashing lights on the side of a road.

Move-over laws now exist in all 50 states to protect everyone who works and travels on Ohio roads, officials said.

The patrol said it is committed to enforcing this law and educating the public about its importance. From 2011-15, there were 67 highway patrol car crashes that appear to be related to failure to abide by the move-over law, the patrol said.

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