On Tuesday, Christopher G. Skinner was laid to rest by his family. The 42-year-old left behind a fiancee and two teenage children. His death came during an event that, to most of us, began as ordinary, but to a police officer is a life-and-death situation.
Skinner was a member of the Traffic Incident Management Unit of Troop C, based in Sidney. This meant that the officer spent a lot of time doing exactly what he was doing Thursday when he was killed: standing on the side of a busy road, with cars whizzing by at 70 miles per hour (or more), during a traffic stop.
State police say that Almond Upton of Melrose, Fla., struck two other cars with his white 2014 Toyota Tacoma before hitting Skinner, moving from the passing lane to the right shoulder to do so.
What had been a routine traffic stop for the 13-year veteran of the state police turned tragic in just seconds.
It is easy to be annoyed or impatient when signaled by police to pull over. Maybe you’re in a hurry, or you’re frustrated because you don’t think you were doing anything wrong.
But Skinner’s death is a reminder that, no matter how annoying that traffic stop may be for us, it’s much more serious for the officer who is putting his life at risk to make that stop.
In 2011, New York state instituted a “move over” law that requires drivers to move into the passing lane when possible if police and emergency vehicles are stopped alongside the road. Drivers are also required to slow down when approaching emergency vehicles whose lights are flashing.
Upton told police that he was “in a time warp” at the time of the accident, and didn’t remember the previous few hours he had spent driving from Connecticut.