This is a proceeding wherein on appeal, the court holds that the reckless disregard standard of care in Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104(e) only applies when a driver of an authorized emergency vehicle involved in an emergency operation engages in the specific conduct exempted from the rules of the road by Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104(b). Any other injury-causing conduct of such a driver is governed by the principles of ordinary negligence.
On 20 September 2004 at 3:57 p.m., the defendant, JD, a road patrol deputy in the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, was on routine patrol for DWI in a marked police vehicle when he received a radio dispatch from the Office of Emergency Communications dispatch or “911 center” directing him to respond to a stolen vehicle report at an address in Henrietta, New York. When he received the call, he was heading south on West Henrietta Road, nearing a traffic light at the intersection of West Henrietta Road and Brighton Henrietta Town Line Road, which marks the border between the Towns of Brighton (on the north side) and Henrietta (on the south side). No Drunk Driving.
Thereafter, JD received a second radio dispatch which requested backup for another officer who was responding to a burglary alarm at a location in Henrietta. Because the 911 center categorized the burglary alarm as “classification one”, meaning, “a serious call that needs immediate attention”, JD acknowledged the request, telling the dispatcher that he would assist with the burglary alarm before addressing the stolen vehicle report which was assigned a higher classification and therefore a lower priority. At 4:02 p.m., the dispatcher transmitted information about the burglary call, including the address and the names of cross streets, to the mobile data terminal inside the deputy’s vehicle. DUI was not an issue.
JD did not activate the emergency lights or siren on his vehicle. He was traveling at a speed of 25 to 30 miles per hour in a 40–mile–per–hour zone. He does not recall if he speeded up or slowed down after receiving the dispatch. The deputy explained that he was not familiar with the location of the burglary alarm, and due to the amount of traffic during that time of day he didn’t want to initiate any emergency equipment without knowing where he was positively going. He therefore touched the terminal and looked down for two to three seconds at the display to view the names of the cross streets. When JD lifted his gaze, he realized that traffic had slowed. Although he immediately applied his brakes, he was unable to stop before rear-ending the vehicle in front of him, which was driven by plaintiff YK.
To Be Cont….
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