Upset mother says trooper ran daughter off road

Rachel and Lori Collins

April 22, 2011 4:07:51 PM PDT
A 16-year-old driver and her passengers walked away unharmed from a wreck Thursday, but the teen's mother is warning all drivers and making a public plea to the NC Highway Patrol.

"I'm very angry," mother Lori Collins said. "The outcome could've been really tragic."

Collins' daughter walked away from a near-miss with a patrol car.

"There's no way I had time to do anything," driver Rachel Collins said.

Rachel was picking up her brother and a friend from college and was headed to Durham when a trooper, who was hot on the trail of a speeder in Yadkin County, suddenly appeared, forcing her off the road.

"Lights are going off behind me, I'm trying to get out of the way but there's nowhere to really go," Rachel said. "He's giving me no choice."

Her car ended up sandwiched between the cables of the guard rail.

The Highway Patrol maintains Rachel panicked and lost control in the median on the left instead of slowing down and moving to the right.

"The state police was [the] problem on the road yesterday," Lori said. "They were running people off the road."

Rachel's mother wants an investigation into the incident that she believes is eerily similar to a fatal crash in Guilford County last year. The trooper topped out at 120 miles an hour, trying to catch up to a speeder when he collided with a car turning in front of him. A grandmother and child were killed.

Long before that crash, the I-Team exposed similar wrecks that were becoming more common. In 2009, troopers were involved in 360 collisions -- an average of nearly one crash everyday of the year.

"It's time to re-evaluate and retrain and look at your group from within and say how can we make what we do every day safer for everybody," Lori said.

In response to other wrecks, the patrol has said its troopers are trained to make split second decisions, but accidents are part of a risky job.

"I have great respect for what they do and the risk they take every day, but ultimately their first charges is to protect the streets," Lori said.

Her daughter says she didn't feel protected.

A Highway Patrol spokesperson says the trooper saw Rachel's crash in his rearview mirror. She says he eventually returned to the scene to investigate, but it was long after other emergency personnel had arrived.

"I think he put us at risk by not coming back immediately, by not stopping right where he was and coming back," Rachel said. "It kind of makes us feel like he didn't care about our safety. I hope he got the speeder, I mean, he put that before our safety, our lives."

In the past, Governor Beverly Perdue has said she has zero tolerance for troopers who drive dangerously.

The ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team wants to point out that at no time did the trooper's car strike Rachel's vehicle. However, her mother is calling for an investigation.

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