Police Officer Runs Traffic Light

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A deputy was reported to have been involved in a car accident at the intersection of Michigan Street and Delaney Avenue. The accident happened at approximately 5:15 p.m. as the deputy was transporting a suspect to the county jail. The police vehicle struck a woman driving a Toyota Yaris. At the time of the collision, the police cruiser had its lights on but no audible sirens. Carlos, Acevedo, who is an independent witness working at Valvoline Instant Oil Change said that the deputy flew through a red light and did not slow down.

When Police Are Allowed To Disobey Traffic Laws

In Florida, section 316.072, Florida Statutes, requires all drivers to obey traffic control signals and devices except for the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle under the following circumstances.

1-When responding to an emergency call;
2-When in pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law; or
3- When responding to a fire alarm but not upon returning from a fire.

Blue Lights Should Be Activated

If those circumstances exist, a police vehicle may legally proceed past a red light or stop sign but only after slowing down as may be necessary for safe operation. The statute also allows a police vehicle under those circumstances to disregard regulations governing direction, movement, or turning in specified directions so long as the driver does not endanger life or property. Interestingly, section section 316.072, Florida Statutes, does not discuss the use of emergency signal equipment. That particular issue is addressed by section 316.126, Florida Statutes. Section 316.126 requires any authorized emergency vehicle, when en route to meet an existing emergency, to warn all other vehicular traffic by an audible signal, siren, exhaust whistle, or other adequate device or by a visible signal by the use of displayed blue or red lights. Further, section 316.126 states that while en route to such emergency, the emergency vehicle shall otherwise proceed in a manner consistent with the laws regulating vehicular traffic.

Was There Ever An Emergency?

While one might jump to the conclusion that the police officer in this instance is required to use an audible signal and failed to do so, the real issue issue presented here is whether there ever was an “emergency” to justify the use of the lights in the first place. I suggest that transporting a suspect after an arrest is not an “emergency” under Florida law and does not permit a police officer to use its lights, sirens, or other emergency equipment for the purpose of disregarding a traffic signal. Therefore, the Sheriff, as a political subdivision, is legally liable for this collision under Florida’s limited waiver of sovereign immunity.

Contact A Central Florida Personal Injury Attorney To Make Your Claim Against The Government

If you have been involved in a car accident with a government vehicle, your case is subject to Florida’s limited waiver of sovereign immunity statute. There are additional legal requirements and different time frames applicable to such as accidents as opposed to car accidents with citizens. For a discussion of Florida sovereign immunity, please see our page on cases against the government which is linked above. As it applies to our practice, most of our sovereign immunity cases are car accidents in the Central Florida area.

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