Responding to a call on an interstate and having to get out of a police car and walk alongside speeding traffic may be one of the least favorite duties for local police, explained Officer Melissa Doss, of the St. Peters Police Department.
“It’s so dangerous,” Doss said.
Both Doss and Sgt. Al Nothum, a Missouri Highway Patrol spokesperson, said interstate shoulders are not safe places for traffic that has to pull over or drivers who get out of their vehicles. That opinion was reinforced by a tragic accident during the early morning hours of Thursday, Aug. 6 on Hwy. 370, when a man was killed after presumably being struck by a vehicle after getting out of his.
Nothum said a motorist called police about 2:15 a.m. and reported seeing someone who may have been trying to cross the highway but police checking the report found no one.
“We think he may have been struck about 2 or 3 a.m.,” Nothum said.
Police didn’t know anything was amiss until Thursday afternoon, when a trooper driving west on the interstate at about 4:30 p.m. saw something on the road that looked like body parts.
She investigated and immediately closed the highway, calling for assistance from troopers who began their investigations. The westbound lanes of the highway were reopened before 10:30 p.m.
The victim’s vehicle, a 1996 pickup, was discovered empty along the side of the road about a half-mile from where his body was found. Nothum said the assumption is that the truck may have suffered a mechanical failure.
Police identified the victim as Shawn Christopher Daugherty, 35 of St. Charles. He was the son of Jerry Daugherty, a former member of the St. Charles County Council, Portage de Sioux alderman and director of emergency management for Lincoln County. Shawn Daugherty worked for Daugherty Fiberglass for 15 years and was a member of the Black Walnuts band. Funeral services were held at St. Francois Catholic Church in Portage des Sioux on Aug. 13.
Troopers are trying to determine if Daugherty was trying to cross the highway and was struck by a vehicle or was struck while walking the shoulder. No one stopped after he was struck.
“Walking along an interstate shoulder or trying to cross a multi-lane interstate with speeding traffic is simply something that motorists should avoid if at all possible,” Nothum said.
If possible, motorists should try to pull off an interstate rather than park on a shoulder. They should use their cellphone to call for help, he said. If someone gets out of their vehicle, they should move away from the roadway rather than walk along the shoulder, perhaps walking off the road or up an embankment, Nothum said.
Doss said, “People should not be out (walking) on the highways at all.”
She suggested drivers should stay in their vehicles and call for help. If they get out of their vehicles, drivers should try to use the car door away from the road to exit. If two vehicles are on the shoulder, she cautioned drivers and passengers to avoid standing between them, because a vehicle rear-ended by a highway vehicle could crush someone standing there.
Doss said motorists also may want to keep an old cellphone charged up and in the glove compartment. The old phone could be used to make an emergency call, she said.
According to authorities, people who try to cross lanes of traffic often misjudge how fast traffic can go. And drivers moving at high speeds can’t stop or react quickly.
In the case of the accident involving Daugherty, authorities aren’t sure what happened, but at presstime were still trying to find the vehicle that hit him.
“We just don’t have any leads at this point,” Nothum said.