When troopers don’t make NC highways safe

by YES! Weekly staff

The NC Highway Patrol has seemed to deflect responsibility from itself almost from the start of saga involving a tragic car crash that claimed the lives of 55-year-old Sandra Allmond and 11-year-old Taylor Strange at the intersection of Business 85 and River Road near Jamestown on May 23.

The state agency’s crash report states that the vehicle driven by Allmond “failed to yield, entered the intersection” and collided with Dodge Charger driven by Trooper JD Goodnight. It’s not as though Allmond was at fault; to the contrary, it was Goodnight who was driving about 120 mph before his car plowed into hers.

Col. Randy Glover announced he is stepping down as commander of the Highway Patrol on July 18. Recent embarrassments include a major who had to resign after sending inappropriate text messages and troopers charged with driving while intoxicated. The timing is interesting, coming a day after Fox 8 ran with a story broken by Editor Ogi Overman at our sister newspaper, the Jamestown News, about credible claims by Terry Johnson, a Vietnam combat veteran who was a witness to Goodnight’s crash and the first one on the scene.

The official story put out by the Highway Patrol in the crash report is that Goodnight was “attempting to overtake a violator vehicle”. That notion is dubious, Johnson told Overman, indicating that he said much the same to the official crash investigator.

“He asked me specifically did I ever get the sense that Officer Goodnight had any urgency to do anything, and I said no,” Johnson told Overman. “He pulled in behind me and we trundled down the road for a quarter mile at 55, and then he kicked his car in the butt and took off and killed two people. That’s the bottom line.”

It’s unclear which direction the phantom “violator” was purported to be traveling, but in any case Johnson firmly states that he observed no speeding vehicle in either direction except for Goodnight’s.

If the alleged speeder had been traveling northbound, why didn’t Goodnight immediately make a U-turn in the paved crossover instead of driving up to the next intersection at River Road? And if the alleged speeder was traveling southbound, why did Goodnight drive 55 mph behind Johnson for about a quarter of a mile before gunning the car, if Johnson’s account is to be believed? If there was no speeder to whom Goodnight was responding after all, what was he doing driving 120 mph on a roadway where ordinary citizens were trying to travel safely?

The Highway Patrol must hold accountable any troopers found to be frivolously endangering public safety rather than carrying out legitimate traffic enforcement functions. And it must examine whether its employees are working excessive hours and foregoing sleep to the detriment of their good judgment. If that’s the case, they need to tighten up some rules.

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