Law enforcement officers and first responders have many risks that go with their jobs, but they still protect and serve their communities every day. Plum Grove Police Sgt. Frank Longoria has been waking up every day for over 30 years to do just that, but Saturday, Oct. 14, was different for him.
At approximately 6 a.m., Longoria was nearly finished with his shift when he began to help direct traffic with Liberty County Sheriff’s Deputy Mobley on the 200 block of FM 1010.
“It was a road crash. The vehicles were on the east side of 1010. So many emergency vehicles showed up and we had to shut off part of the road. Deputy Mobley and I were alternating the cars to go through,” said Longoria.
According to Longoria, everything was going fine until he heard a vehicle coming up from behind him. He was not expecting what happened next.
“All of a sudden I could hear a vehicle behind me going at the speed limit, which was 50 miles an hour. I started flashing my flashlight at him, but he started coming toward me. He kept coming and coming but did not slow down, so I threw my flashlight at him to make him slow down. He did, which allowed me to get out of the way as much as I could. He ended up clipping me with the side of his truck. It was a hard shove, not too hard of a hit but a hard shove, and I hit the ground pretty hard,” said Longoria.
After Longoria was hit, he was transported by EMS to Kingwood HCA Hospital, south of Plum Grove.
He did not suffer any serious injuries and is thankful to the body armor he had on, which he says saved him. Longoria is still suffering with pain in his lower back and hip.
This experience serves as a reminder that drivers need to minimize all distractions on the road at all times.
“Texting and driving are one of the most dangerous things a person can do. The vehicle is traveling so fast that you don’t realize how much ground you are covering in those brief moments. When you include reaction time to avoid a collision, it can be almost impossible. Drivers are required by state law to vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle or reduce their speed by 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit,” said Sgt. Rob Willoughby, supervisor for the Liberty County office for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
This is applicable for law enforcement, fire, EMS, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and tow vehicles that have their emergency lights activated. The fine is between $500 and $1,250.
“If you happen to kill someone while texting and driving, you could also face criminal charges. The text message can wait. Pull into a parking lot, send your text there and make your phone call there. When you are driving, you are moving too quickly to concentrate on stuff like that. Distracted driving is a 100 percent preventable offense,” said Willoughby.
According to Longoria, the driver was stopped and cited by a Trooper. The driver told authorities he was reportedly “distracted by all of the lights” from the vehicle accident.
“People need to be aware. When you see emergency personnel and vehicles, please remember that we could be outside and taking care of a situation. Several law enforcement officers have been killed by vehicles. If you see any emergency lights or are confused about a situation, slow down. We are trying to help other people and sometimes, we end up needing help. We have families to go home to,” said Longoria.