Dash cam catches driver rear-ending DMV inspector

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (WCAX) A close call on I-91 in St. Johnsbury Saturday served as a powerful reminder to move over for parked emergency vehicles.

"I've had close calls, but I've never been hit before," said Ben Shelp, a Vermont DMV Inspector.

Dash cam footage from Shelp's cruiser shows the jarring jolt after the driver of a pickup truck rear-ended him. The driver later admitted to Vermont State Police he was going 70 in a 65 miles-per-hour zone and was distracted by his radio.

The law requires drivers to slow down and give emergency vehicles a wide berth.

"It was pretty ironic, yeah," Shelp said. Ironic, because the crash happened during the "Connect to Disconnect" campaign to crack down on distracted driving.

Saturday, Shelp and his partner pulled over a tractor-trailer on I-91 for a routine inspection check. You can see from his partner's cruiser -- parked ahead of the big rig -- most of the cars passing by moved into the left lane... until one didn't.

Shelp's cruiser's emergency lights were flashing to alert drivers to move over. From the impact damage to the cruiser, DMV officials say it's clear, if the Shelp hadn't been inside the cruiser, it could have been a much different story.

Reporter Christina Guessferd: Do you feel lucky knowing this wasn't as bad as it could have been?
Inspector Ben Shelp: Yes, definitely... you never think it's going to happen to you or to somebody that your work with, so I think the surprise is still there, but the reality doesn't change that this happens every day.

DMV Colonel Jake Elovirta says two recent cases are cause for concern.

"It's something that was brought home to us earlier this year with the death of the Illinois State Trooper who was doing the same thing Inspector Shelp was -- where there was a commercial motor vehicle inspection at roadside," he said.

And in Winooski last month, an Essex Police officer had to jump out of the way when a car came within feet of his cruiser. "People really need to be putting down their devices and just paying attention to what they're doing when they drive down the highway," Elovirta said.

He says his officers will be ramping up enforcement this summer when construction season gets into full swing.