A recent traffic accident caused by an Austin police officer left one man in critical condition and others wondering if the rules of the road that apply to the rest of us, should apply to emergency personnel as well. The accident that occurred at the intersection of Lamplight Village and Magazine Street put the focus on on-board communication devices in city emergency vehicles.
Dash camera video from May 29 shows APD officer Damon Dunn driving on Magazine Street and approaching Lamplight Village. Police documents show Dunn thought he was idling as he looked at his computer data terminal. Instead Dunn ran the stop sign at Magazine and collided with motorcyclist Louis Olivier.
Police records indicate Dunn was traveling only about 10 miles per hour, but the force of the impact was enough to knock Olivier out of his shoes. The 74-year-old was taken to University Medical Center at Brackenridge in critical condition.
"I do remember seeing a motorcycle in the roadway," said Garry Durante, Olivier's neighbor.
Durante was out running with his dog that Saturday when he witnessed the accident.
"The police had the whole block, a city block of the neighborhood cordoned off," said Durante.
Title 12 of the Austin City Code addresses electronic messaging while driving. Item A reads, "A driver of a motor vehicle may not use a wireless communication device to view, send, or compose an electronic message or engage other application software while operating a motor vehicle."
But just below that, item C reads, "This section does not apply to an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle using a wireless communication device while acting in an official capacity."
"We are really, really tasking our work crews especially our police force, fire, EMS and some of those folks with delivering almost too much data at a time to pay attention," said Durante. "So if we can learn from a minor to a relatively serious incident without a fatal injury then we have an opportunity and in this particular case it is a correctable opportunity and something we need to look at," said Durante.
Olivier remains at University Medical Center at Brackenridge, but he has been upgraded to good condition and could return home soon. Officer Dunn, a 10-year veteran with APD, returned to full duty a few days following the accident.