Two Marietta police officers narrowly avoided serious injury while helping a stranded motorist early Sunday morning when another driver smashed into the back of one of their parked patrol vehicles, according to the Marietta Police Department.
At around 3:30 a.m., Officers Coleman and Covino responded to a call of a motorist in need of assistance on Interstate 75 northbound between the North and South loops, said Officer Chuck McPhilamy, a spokesman for the Marietta Police Department.
McPhilamy said callers reported that a single vehicle had blown a tire, spun out of control and hit the wall of the divided highway, leaving the motorist without a way to move their vehicle.
Coleman arrived on the scene and called to his partner, Covino, for backup, McPhilamy said. When Covino arrived, he parked his Ford Taurus patrol vehicle behind Coleman's SUV. Both vehicles had their lights flashing.
McPhilamy said moments after Covino retrieved supplies from the trunk of his patrol vehicle and headed back to the crash scene, a motorist heading northbound at "full speed" slammed into the Taurus, pushing it into the patrol vehicle in front.
"He gets out some flares, grabs his traffic vest, takes somewhere between five and 10 steps away from the car and that's when it hit," McPhilamy said.
The impact pushed the totaled Taurus past Covino and into Coleman's patrol SUV, forcing Coleman to jump onto the highway divider to avoid injury, McPhilamy said.
The driver and passenger in the vehicle that hit the patrol car were transported to a local hospital with what appeared to be non-life-threatening injuries, he said. Neither officer was injured.
The Marietta Police Department shared a video of the crash on its Facebook and Twitter accounts Wednesday, with a message reminding motorists of the importance of the state's Move Over Law.
Georgia’s Move Over Law says motorists must move over one lane when possible when emergency and utility vehicles are stopped on the side of the highway and operating in an official capacity, according to the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety.
If they cannot move over, they must slow below the posted speed limit to "a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions," the law states.
Vehicles included in the law include all first responders (law enforcement, fire, EMS), utility vehicles, Department of Transportation vehicles, Highway Emergency Response Operator Units and wreckers tending to a wreck. The law is meant to keep officers and other motorists safe from crashes with passing cars.
McPhilamy said the Marietta Police Department shared the video to show firsthand how dangerous it can be for first responders if motorists do not heed the law.
"We are incredibly fortunate that everyone lived through this," he said. "While it is an accident, it does also serve as a reminder of how important the law is."
The investigation into the crash is open and active, and whether or not any charges will be filed is not yet known.