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Any fatality on our highways is tragic. But a deadly accident that happened in Jamestown, North Carolina, on May 23 seems all the worse when you consider the victims – a grandmother and a little girl.

It happened at about 15 minutes before noon. Sandra Allmond was driving with her 11-year-old grandson Elijah, and two other children, Steven Strange, age 9, and Taylor Strange, an 11-year-old girl. A Highway Patrol cruiser, pursuing another car that had been clocked doing 80 mph, smashed into Allmond’s Honda Accord.

Sandra died at the scene. Taylor died at the hospital. The two boys suffered severe head and neck injuries, but thankfully, Elijah recovered enough to go home, and Steven is out of intensive care.

This is surely a heart-wrenching ordeal for the state trooper as well. Every day our law enforcement officers shoulder tremendous responsibility. Troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and police officers alike must make life-and-death decisions, often with just a fraction of a second to react. Their lives and the lives of the people they protect are on the line.

When a car speeds past at 80 mph, an officer likely won’t know why that vehicle is speeding. The driver could be impaired, or could very well be fleeing the scene of a crime. High-speed pursuit is an unfortunate but necessary occurrence of law enforcement.

According to the Highway Patrol, troopers were involved in 360 crashes in 2009. Of those, 248 crashes were classified as non-preventable. Troopers were involved in 251 crashes in 2008; 166 were classified as non-preventable. Figures for 2010 are not yet available.

Still, an incident such as Sunday’s crash raises questions. Should there be more guidelines on how to pursue suspects? Should law enforcement agencies establish an official protocol about driving speeds when an officer is trying to catch up to a car? Is enough being done to warn motorists to be on the alert for officers doing their duty?

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